Today we drove Mama Rehema, little Nema and four of our students to “visiting day” at two of the local schools. We stopped at the Montessori School first, just outside Lushoto on the way down toward Mombo. There we dropped off Julitha and Rafikiel, who were going to visit Zawadi and Asha, students who were previously at Irente Children’s Home.
We drove on to Usambara Primary School, a boarding school several miles below Lushoto. At Usambara we visited Joseph, Rehema, and Anna, also former children from Irente Home. With Tom and I were Mama Rehema and Neema, our next door neighbors, along with students Asha and Fadhila. We started out in the headmaster’s office where each child’s grades were shown to us. Asha carefully noted each subject, grade and any comments in order to report back to Mama Mdemu. Someone went to find the students we were visiting. By mistake, they brought in Zulfa Juma, not Rehema Juma. (Juma is the last name usually given to abandoned children) Zulfa continued with us on our visit and shared the food we brought with us.
When Anna and Joseph had joined us, we went for a tour of the campus. The dormitories for the girls were close by. The rooms were neat and clean, with each girl responsible for making her bed and maintaining her area. Outside the door was a line two rows deep of flip flops which are worn inside the dorm and to the showers. We asked Rehema how she would know which were hers and she showed them to us easily.
The boys dormitories were a bit of a climb up a steep hill. These again were neat and clean. Joseph showed us where he slept. We met the house mother as well as two other women who were washing the boys clothes.
After seeing the dorms, we walked to the classroom buildings and talked with one of the teachers. School here is held Monday through Saturday, with tests given every Saturday. The class rooms we saw were a good size with many desks and chairs. Boarding schools are preferred over the public schools, if possible, due to class size. Many families send their children to boarding school if they can afford the fees.
This visit was special for us since we are Anna’s sponsors for school. Anna is a beautiful little six year old. Her parents are dead and she stays during school breaks with her grandmother out in the villages somewhere. She spent her early years at Irente Children’s Home. Her grandmother expressed her thanks and God’s blessings on us when she found out that we would pay Anna’s tuition. Of course, this is a long term commitment. Anna is only in first grade and has, we hope, many years of school ahead of her. It is a commitment we are happy to make.
The fee for a child for a full year of school, including room and board is about $700 US. This is an amount that we could spend at home without even knowing where it went... a weekend away, some meals out with friends, or purchasing this or that which we really don’t need. Mama Mdemu is always looking for sponsors to help former ICH children have the opportunity for an education and a better future. ( If anyone is interested, just contact us and we can furnish the details of how to sponsor a child).
After Usambara School, we returned to the Montessori School to pick up Julitha and Rafikiel. They had also received reports on Zawadi and Asha. Montessori is a Catholic school for girls. It was easy to see the difference between the schools. Montessori looks very expensive. The grounds of the school were crowded with families picnicing on the lawns with their students. The nuns made their rounds through the families, speaking with mothers and fathers about their children. We said good-bye to Zawadi and Asha and walked back to the pick-up truck for our ride back to Irente.
We thank God for these institutions and the education that is available to those who can afford it.