Back to School

Date posted: Thursday 10 September 2020

Where September marks the beginning of the school year for students and families in the United States, it signals the start of the homestretch for their counterparts in Tanzania – at least for those in Forms I-IV whose academic calendar begins in January and typically ends in November. For BKB congregations in both countries, now is the time of year when we take stock of the past year and begin making plans and commitments for the year to come.


At their meeting last week, the BKB Scholarship and Education Committee did just that. Gathered across continents by Zoom, representatives from Saint Paul Area Synod congregations met with Pastor Lusungu Msigwa (BKB-DIRA Director), Frank Mkocha (BKB Scholarship Clerk), and Deacon April Trout (BKB-SPAS Coordinator) in Iringa. Reviewing 2020, key highlights of their conversation included:


  • No sign of COVID-19 spread in the six boarding schools of the Iringa Diocese. Likewise, the 1,200 students supported through BKB are reported to be in good health. When schools reopened in July, an emphasis was placed on masks, social distancing and hygiene. While some of those standards have been relaxed, students and staff continue to be in good health with no documented transmission in the school communities.
  • Enrollment is up across the six schools of the Iringa Diocese. Across the board, only four students did not return from the two-month mandatory shut down imposed by the national government.
  • Forms I-IV are on track to complete the 2020 academic year in December, having adjusted their schedules and compressed their breaks to account for the shut-down in May and June. Meanwhile, Forms V-VI are following their typical July-May schedule.
  • Demand for post-secondary scholarship support is increasing. On Sept. 23-24, a joint Review Board will be interviewing 50 eligible students and award $8,000-$9,000 in scholarship support to a portion of them. This is on top of the $17,000 reserved for 26 students who are continuing on in their studies.
  • New congregations in Iringa lead to increased use of scholarship equity funds. Leaning into the accompaniment values of mutuality and inclusivity, the scholarship equity fund is set aside to provide a basic level of support to students from unpartnered congregations. With the Diocese adding 18 new parishes in 2020, the need has never been greater.


For partnership and mission committees in U.S. congregations, now is the time to begin assessing your scholarship commitments with your companions as well. By the end of September, you’ll receive current student lists and financial reports from your cluster leaders. In early October, we’ll host a couple of cluster meetings by Zoom to answer your questions and field your concerns – especially important as COVID-19 continues to impact the health and financial well-being of folks in the U.S. Pledges for the 2021 academic year will again be due by Nov. 1 with funds collected by Jan. 1.


As a year unlike any other continues to unfold, it is helpful to be reminded that life and learning roll on. It is also good to remember that, in Christ, we are together even when we are apart. All thanks be to God.



The Rev. Peter Harrits
Director of Bega Kwa Bega & Assistant to the Bishop