Back to School & Scholarships

Date posted: Friday 12 October 2018

This is the time of year that many of us become immersed in all things autumn...the color of the trees, the weather, the football games, the entire back-to-school routine. It is my favorite time of year. I have just returned from my high school class reunion and my mind is still swimming from the memories that have surfaced. A lot of things in our society revolve around the school year.


Things run a little differently in Tanzania. For students in Forms I-IV, their school year begins with the new year. While we are busy decorating for Christmas, baking, and sending out greeting cards, BKB Scholarship Clerk Frank Mkocha is busy gathering names of students submitted by Partnership Committees from villages in the Iringa Diocese. These students have been selected to receive scholarships from funds provided by their companion congregations in the Saint Paul Area Synod. Through Bega Kwa Bega, hundreds of students attend school each year because of your generosity.


In the past few years, the process of assigning scholarships has been given to the parishes. The Partnership Committees in the villages meet to determine need for scholarships and how the money will be dispersed. This change has led to more local responsibility for the use of the money the Saint Paul Area Synod congregations provide. The committees determine if the recipients receive 100%, 70% or 50% of their scholarship needs based on the financial means of the scholarship recipient's ability to pay a share of the tuition. The money we pledge can go further than ever to help as many students as possible. The Partnership Committees take this responsibility very seriously and want to be good stewards of the money we send.


For the last three years, I have been privileged to travel to Iringa in January to help facilitate payment of scholarships to the students in Iringa Diocese. I have visited the schools to verify that the students assigned scholarships have actually come to school. If they are not present when we visit, the scholarships are not paid...unless the student makes the trip to the Diocese office to verify that they are attending school. This has improved the accuracy of payments to the schools and made bookkeeping more efficient.


One of the most difficult things about visiting the schools (besides the roads!!) is to see the faces of the students who have come to school expecting to be able to be funded by a scholarship, only to find out that their church has not received a current pledge from their companion in the US and therefore money is not available. This doesn't need to happen if we are diligent in our pledging process.


In order for parish leaders to receive timely information about what their US partners have pledged for the year, that information needs to be communicated to your Cluster Leader by Nov 1. Please understand how very important the timeliness of your decision is to those waiting to go to school in Tanzania. If you are late, your companions can't allocate scholarship awards until you commit your pledge and students are left hanging in the meantime.


It is my hope that as our minds turn to all things fall, we will remember to plan ahead for the pledges that our BKB partners depend on for the scholarships provided to students in January. You can make this a joyous time for all students! Thank you in advance for your renewed efforts here.


Thankful for God's bounty,


Birdie Olson

Short Term Volunteer - BKB Scholarship Program