The Gift of Presence
For nearly two weeks, those of us in the Saint Paul Area Synod have been blessed by the presence of ou[...]
As school districts plan for how to safely resume face-to-face learning this fall, the question of physically returning to the classroom is still up in the air for many students in the United States. It is a different story in Tanzania, where all primary and secondary students returned to school on June 28 after more than two months off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the Iringa Diocese, all students and staff at the six secondary schools are wearing masks and washing their hands frequently. Their temperatures are taken each day.
A team of people from DIRA led by Rev. Elisande Muhanga, the Diocese Education and Training Officer, visited Pommern, Mtera, and Image schools to check in on the students and staff. Rev. Elisande stated that all are doing well. There has been no illness or COVID symptoms observed or reported at any of the schools.
For most students in Tanzania, the school year follows the calendar year. This year the Tanzanian academic calendar was altered following the enforced time off. The students will finish their first term August 28 (which usually ends in mid-June) and start the second term after a short break. The second term will end December 18, which is about two weeks later than the usual academic schedule calls for. Form VI students were finally able to take their national exams and have left school.
Rev. Elisande reported that some of the families of students who pay their own tuition are now struggling to make those payments because the family income has been impacted by the pandemic and/or by the heavy rains earlier this year that destroyed crops. The schools will continue to be under financial strain even as the students are back in school.
Most companion congregations in St. Paul make pledges to support secondary students from their partner parishes in Iringa during the Fall Stewardship drives. Although you may not yet be gathering for worship yet, we at BKB SPAS and BKB DIRA encourage you to begin your planning for this process soon. Pledge information is due on Nov. 1. Last year, congregations in St. Paul provided almost $325,000 to sponsor approximately 900 secondary students in the Iringa Diocese. Many of these students are able to attend school only because of your generosity.
Your gifts to the Secondary Scholarship Program have provided opportunities for many people to live productive lives. Personally speaking, I (Lynda) think especially of a young woman my congregation sponsored in the mid-2000s. She was raised as an orphan by extended family members amid challenging circumstances. Thanks to a BKB scholarship, she was able to attend vocational school where she learned computer skills and managed a small shop where she taught many young women in her congregation basic computer skills. She went on to become the administrative assistant of the headmaster at a local Secondary School. Each time I am in Iringa, I make it a point to visit with her, her husband, and children. Even though it has been 15 years since she attended school, she has never forgotten those who as she said, “gave me the life I now have.”
This year, as you plan for your giving to BKB, we encourage you to continue your support for the 2021 school year at the level that you provided for 2020. When you consider sponsoring students, remember that the commitment is typically for at least four years per student. When student support goes down, students may be forced to leave school, ending the opportunity for education, which means fewer choices for them throughout their lives. We encourage you to communicate with your partners in Iringa to hear stories of lives that have been changed because of this long-standing and effective program. Every day we thank God for the support you provide and the gift of this relationship!
Rev. Lynda Thompson & Deacon April Trout
BKB Scholarship & Education Working Group