The Lasting Gift of Education
“If my sponsor didn’t help me, I wouldn’t be here.”
This is a quote from Omary, a Form 2 student at Mbezi Beach Secondary School, and one of the first students sponsored by the help2kids Education Sponsorship Program.
Without his sponsor, Omary would have been forced to finish his education after he graduated from Bajeviro Primary School. Instead, Omary is almost done with his second year of secondary school and has big dreams for the future. He wants to go to the United States, study at a university there, and show off his basketball skills.
Bajeviro Primary School students come from low-income backgrounds and depend on the support help2kids offers. The extra costs normally associated with primary school such as mandatory government testing fees and school lunches, are covered by help2kids.
For former Bajeviro students like Omary, moving on to secondary school is often impossible. Without the funds to pay for secondary school, students are forced to end their education after primary school and begin their working life with limited career options.
Francisco de Asís de Alarcón Rubio, the help2kids Education Sponsorship Coordinator, works hard to secure funding for graduating students of Bajeviro Primary School so they can go on to secondary school and have more opportunities available to them.
“The Education Sponsorship Program focuses on the students that have completed Standard 7 at Bajeviro Primary School,” Francisco explained. “When they finish primary school, they need a sponsor because secondary education is not compulsory and not funded by the government. Most of the students here come from impoverished backgrounds and their families cannot afford to pay for the expenses of secondary school.”
With a secondary education, students can continue furthering their learning and discover new passions. When students finish Form 4 of secondary school, they can go on to vocational school or can pursue Form 5 and 6. After Form 6, they are eligible to attend university.
“The further the students go in the education system,” Francisco said, “the more opportunities they will have to improve their economic situation and lead a better life.”
Education Sponsorship funds secondary school tuition and provides all of the necessities students need to succeed. The help2kids Education Sponsorship Program packages covers: tuition, exam fees, textbooks, school supplies, uniforms and shoes, school meals, academic and personal support from staff, and medical care.
The sponsored students are guided through their secondary school career with the help of Francisco or, as some of the students call him, Mr. Paco.
In addition to his administrative duties, Francisco also meets with Omary and the other sponsored students every week to provide them with the support they need. This includes setting goals for the future, distributing money for their school-related expenses, and just talking with them about what’s going on in their lives.
“I check in with them to see if they need aid from our Health Project, I do some tutoring with them, and I ask them about school,” Francisco explained.
“I have tried to create a free and open space for them to voice any concerns or problems they are having in school or in their daily lives. We touch base on Friday afternoons and on Saturday we hold a sort-of study hall session where they can bring in their homework and work on it.”
Over the past few months Francisco has developed a bond with the students and has seen this relationship strengthen over time. Some of the students in the Education Sponsorship Program have been outgoing and forthcoming with him from the start, including showing off their rapping skills, but now the quieter students are warming up to him too.
Esther, one of the shyer girls in the program, now often comes to Bajeviro on the weekends even when she’s not required. She has already finished her homework but comes by anyway to sit and hang out with Francisco as he works. She is one of many students who trust him and open up to him about their obstacles and accomplishments.
In addition to their bond with Francisco, the students also develop a connection with the sponsors who gave them the opportunity to further their education. The students write letters to their sponsors periodically but many of them hope to one day meet their sponsor in person and thank them for their support.
“[When I’m older] I want to be a pilot on a big plane and fly from Tanzania to Germany, where my sponsor is,” said Kassim, a Form 1 student. “And to Dubai too,” he added with a laugh.
Hussein, a Form 2 student, shares the sentiment of wanting to meet his sponsors and express his appreciation.
“If one day I get the chance, I have to meet with my sponsor,” he said. “Then I have to help someone – my younger sister, my younger brother, those around me. I want to help them because I see many poor people in our country and I want to help, but I know I need to study first in order to help them. “
The students of the Education Sponsorship Program know how important their education and the sponsorship is, and they are already thinking of the ways they will be able to help others in need in the future. Now, the next crop of students from Bajeviro seek to follow in the sponsored students’ footsteps.
The 19 students Francisco sees on the weekend have been enrolled in the help2kids Education Sponsorship Program for two years already and are thriving in secondary school. Now the program aims to sponsor 30 new students for the upcoming year. Currently, those 30 new graduates of Bajeviro are preparing for secondary school with the hope of being able to enroll in January.
“All of the students in our program want to go to university,” Francisco said. “They have a very positive attitude. They have dreams of becoming doctors, entrepreneurs, teachers, and many other prestigious professions. They have a mindset of wanting to create a better life and the belief that education is the tool to make that happen.”
The former Standard 7 students from Bajeviro eligible for education sponsorship motivate themselves and each other to work hard so that they can be successful in secondary school. They know it is expensive to attend secondary school and none want to waste this potential life-changing opportunity.
Pendo, one of the highest-testing students from Standard 7, has a quote inside her notebook expressing this passion for higher learning:
“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”
She uses this quote, attributed to former Harvard University President Derek Bok, as motivation in her pursuit of higher education. Some secondary schools in the area even have the same quote displayed in their buildings, to remind children how valuable education is.
Pendo and the other recent graduates – hoping that they will be sponsored and can continue their education – are working hard to prepare for secondary school. The transition can be quite difficult because in Tanzania many primary schools are taught in Kiswahili while secondary schools are taught in English.
Students are often expected to attend preparation courses to get them up to speed before secondary school begins but families from Bajeviro do not have the resources to send their children to these classes. The teachers at Bajeviro are instead having the students come in every weekday, even after graduating.
The Bajeviro teachers were not required to hold these study sessions, but they have sacrificed their free time during the day to ensure that the Standard 7 students are thoroughly prepared for their next step.
While the students are working hard in the classroom, Francisco is working diligently next door in his office, to find them sponsors.
“This project is relatively new, so it takes on a lot of time and focus,” Francisco said. “I find sponsors, act as a link between the sponsors and the students, manage the sponsorship database, and ensure each sponsor gets letters and reports from the students.”
With all of these responsibilities, Francisco has gotten to know the students very well. But because of this, he is not looking forward to some difficult conversations he may need to have. The new school year begins in January and only about half of the 30 students were sponsored as of the end of October.
Over a dozen students from Bajeviro Primary School still require sponsorship. Without sponsorship, these students will have no way to continue their education. If you would like to sponsor a recent graduate, please contact email@example.com. For USD 51 per month, you can send a student in Tanzania to secondary school and give them a gift with an immeasurable impact that will last a lifetime – a quality education.