Academic success for the brightest, less fortunate

Tuesday February 12 2019

A bright future ahead: The School of St Jude

A bright future ahead: The School of St Jude students Samson Mwakabage (left) Lightness Mbwambo (center) and Edwin Silayo. PHOTO | FILE 

By Elisha Mayallah

The dream to provide free high-quality education to children living in poverty is being manifested steadily at The School of St. Jude in Arusha. It is a rare opportunity accorded to children coming from families that are not financially well-off.

Sixteen years after the charitable school that has sponsored the brightest and poorest children in Arusha started operating, it has managed to produce the best candidates in the National Form Two Examination of 2018 announced earlier this year.

St Jude’s had the two best students among the top 10 candidates in form Two National Examination. Samson Mwakabage, 16, took first position amongst all the boys in the country who did the Form Two final exam. While the biblical Samson gained strength through his hair, this young secondary school namesake, gains his through education. When he joined the primary school at St. Jude, Samson, at the age of seven, wanted to be a pastor. Now, he’s directing his skills in science and mathematics towards another dream; becoming an oil and gas expert.

Speaking to Success, Samson said: “Our country has enough oil and gas, but it has few specialists in this field resulting in many jobs in this sector being out-sourced from abroad. The School of St Jude trains students to become future leaders of Tanzania and serve people who are in need. I am going to be one of those people.”

Besides Samson, the other student who also performed well in the final exam is Edwin Silayo, 16. Edwin managed to attain 10th position among all candidates who did the Form Two final exam. With a passion for devices like computers, television and mobile phones, Edwin has his eyes set on becoming an electronics engineer.

Not surprisingly, the boys’ favourite subjects are mathematics for Samson; ICT and physics for Edwin.

However, it’s not only boys who excelled. All of St Jude’s Form 2 students performed well. One girl, in particular, has shown what determination, resilience and hard work can achieve, even in the face of extraordinary challenges.

Lightness Mbwambo, 17, alongside her peers, scored first division in the national exams. But unlike her peers, she uses her feet to write her examinations.

Lightness has cerebral palsy, a condition that affects muscle coordination, making it difficult for her to have the necessary control to use her hands to write. Instead, she has learned to write and draw by holding the pen between her toes.

The condition is often stigmatised and without the additional facilities St Jude’s provides, it would be almost impossible for her to complete her schooling.

With the support of her mother, sponsors, donors and the school staff, Lightness is able to excel academically in an environment that provides the right resources for her well-being and success. She uses an adapted computer keyboard and additional support in boarding. “I did well because of the school, the extra facilities, books and mostly the support from teachers. I’ve also been working very hard with my friends,” she said.

Lightness is looking to develop a career as an architect. “Art is inborn and due to the fact that I also love mathematics, this assures my path is correct,” she said, adding, “I would love to improve the infrastructures in and outside my country through architecture.”

Lightness comes from a single parent family and is the eldest of three children, while Samson is one of three children to a widowed mother from Arusha and Edwin comes from a family of four children.

All three are boarding students, pursuant to the system at the school, and have found that this has helped them greatly in their studies.

The School of St Jude provides free education to the poor and brightest children of Arusha and does not discriminate along religious or tribal lines. It has students of Christian, Muslim, and other faiths coming from 35 different tribes – these high-scoring students themselves come from three different tribes.

A strong factor in the students’ success, according to the Headmaster Mr Nzinyangwa Mcharo, is the teachers’ commitment to the school. Many of them stay late, helping struggling students, or come early, or even spend time in the boarding house giving extra academic tasks to those that need them.

“We set out at the beginning of the year with strong teamwork, all working towards the common goal of excellence. With discipline and planning, we made sure to create an environment that was the best it could be for both teaching and learning. The results speak for themselves and we are looking forward to more of the same,” Mr Nzinyangwa said.

He further stated that 177 students from St Jude’s sat for the national exam - 102 were female and 75 male. Out of the total, 14 students got A’s in all 12 subjects, 134 students got 7 points within their division 1 grade, which is the highest mark a student can get in the national exam.

“We couldn’t be prouder of every single one of our Form Two students and their amazing exam results,” said the school’s founder, Gemma Sisia. “Their achievements are inspiring every other student at St Jude’s and spurring them all on to new heights.”