When guests visit the Head Office of the Iringa Diocese, one of the first things that I always show them is the signboard that sits just inside the main gate of the compound. On the board is written the mission statement of our companions - a statement that includes the following sentence:
The Iringa Diocese exists to witness, live in Christian fellowship and to serve the people created in the image of God spiritually, mentally, physically, and economically.
That sentence, to me at least, is an indicator of the expansively holistic vision that guides the work of the ELCT Iringa Diocese. Going forward, that sentence will also lie at center of the new BKB Post-Secondary Scholarship program that we are launching together.
The educational landscape in Tanzania has been changing in recent years. With increased government support of secondary education as well as more and more students seeking advanced studies we (leaders in both Iringa and Saint Paul) have been aware of the need to adapt the ways in which we support education beyond the Form VI level. For the past couple of years we have been working on a way forward and are now ready to try it out.
Currently we (the whole BKB system) have taken a scattershot approach in our support of Post-Secondary Scholarships. Practices vary from congregation to congregation, school to school, and individual to individual. While the net result of all of this is an undeniable good (more education!), as more activity shifts in this direction we want to ensure that it is done in a manner that is sustainable and in line with our core values of mutuality, inclusivity, and so on.
Going forward, BKB Post-Secondary Scholarships will be awarded at the Diocese Level. Increasing accessibility, congregations from across the Diocese - both partnered and not - will forward names of qualified students to a Scholarship Review Board. That Board, in turn, will review applications in light of the mission statement of the Diocese and projected needs in the future. Anticipating a pastoral shortage, one year they might prioritize scholarships for theology students. Other years may see a preference for training in health care, education, or community development. With that greater flexibility and clear focus, leaders in Iringa will be empowered to better respond to leadership needs and opportunities in their local communities.
On the US side of the relationship, congregations and individuals will be invited to make pledges and contributions to a general Post-Secondary Scholarship Fund. That amount will be forwarded to the Review Board so they are aware how much they have to allocate during any given year. As awards are made, donors will be notified of the students benefiting from their support. Through the work of the Review Board, accountability will be increased and transparency enhanced. Congregations and individuals alike will be able to rest assured that student requests have been vetted and will contribute to the flourishing of communities in the Iringa region and beyond.
With any change there comes a lot of questions and a steep learning curve. Anticipating those questions, the Scholarship and Education group has arranged for a Q&A Information Session
on Tuesday, May 23 at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Saint Paul. Meanwhile, in Iringa, news of this change is slowly spreading through the District Pastors' offices. On both sides of the relationship, we welcome your input and your understanding as we embark on this next leg of our journey together.
The Rev. Peter Harrits
Director of Bega Kwa Bega and Assistant to the Bishop