Raising further awareness about The School of St Jude and its mission to provide an education for the most underprivileged students will be a key aim of this year’s promotional tour, which begins in March.
St Jude’s inspirational founder Gemma Sisia (2013 finalist for NSW in the Australian of the Year award and one of Financial Review’s 100 Women of Influence in 2012) along with Director of International Relations Kim Saville, who has been working alongside Gemma since 2002, will both be on tour in 2013, which will include visits to several Australian and New Zealand cities and regional centres. This year’s tour includes meetings to personally thank both continuing supporters and attract new sponsors for the charity-based East African school, now in its 11th year of operation.
As the first of St Jude’s students approach their graduation in 2015, Gemma will highlight the school’s long term vision beyond that time.
“With the first round of graduates due in 2015, the future is full of exciting challenges for the school. We want to complete the building program so that we have a fully functioning and top quality institution capable of educating close to 2,000 students at any one time. To further our goal of creating a fully sustainable school, our international volunteers are mentoring local staff throughout the academic and non-academic departments,” Gemma says.
Gemma and Kim will also highlight the on-going importance of Australian sponsorship of the school, with recent UNESCO statistics highlighting a widening disparity of educational standards in sub-Saharan Africa.
“What is clear from UNESCO’s 2012 Education Digest and Global Monitoring Report is that the estimated number of out-of-school children has risen (in sub-Saharan Africa) from 29 million in 2008 to 31 million in 2010.
“Sub-Saharan Africa also has the highest dropout rate, at 42%, meaning that more than two in five children who started school in 2009 will probably not reach the last grade of primary education and about one in six pupils (17%) will leave school before reaching Grade 2,” Kim says.
When Gemma first visited East Africa in 1995 as a volunteer she was deeply affected by the extreme cycle of poverty all around her. She quickly realised that the only real way to break through was by providing a quality education for the most underprivileged children.
“I realised that without raising standards of education, no amount of foreign money could lessen the widespread poverty,” Gemma says. “The uneducated would always serve the educated, maintaining the horrid inequality that exists.”
According to UNESCO’s 2012 data, about two thirds of Africa’s entire population (about 1.32 billion), are aged below 25 and in sub-Saharan Africa over 56 million people aged 15-to-24 have never completed primary school. Today, two thirds of Africa’s urban population live in slums where a lack of skills can confine young people to a life of extreme poverty and subsistence work.
“Education is the key to helping Tanzania unlock the door to long term economic prosperity, and St Jude’s will undoubtedly help achieve that goal with the continuing support and generosity of our wonderful Australian and global sponsors and volunteers who are working alongside our professional and committed Tanzanian staff,” Gemma says.
The School of St Jude
The School of St Jude is a charity funded school that provides a free, high-quality primary and secondary education to over 1,600 of the poorest, brightest children of Arusha region, Tanzania, East Africa. The school, located across three campuses, also provides boarding for 1,000 students, and employs over 400 Tanzanians. It was founded by Australian Gemma Sisia in 2002.