Sister Jackie Goodin, CSJ, returned to Africa in October to work once again with the young women at St. Joseph Hostel in Songea, Tanzania. As some of you may remember from her previous blog posts, Sister Jackie worked at the hostel from 2010 – 2014, then returned home to our founding community of Cleveland. She returned to Tanzania this month to fill in for two months for another sister who had to return home to Brazil for medical care. She will be supervising the girls and helping to keep the hostel running.
Sister Jackie wrote to us about her reunion with the hostel staff and her girls, and about her ongoing experience, in the letters below:
It All Comes Down to an Examination
By Sister Jackie Goodin, CSJ
Every boy and girl deserves a good education— wouldn’t we all agree! In the U.S. and many other developed countries, our children have many options and opportunities for “do-overs” in their journeys through even an imperfect educational system.
Here in Tanzania, the path to education is very narrow, indeed. If a child fails the national examinations at any of these points (second, fourth, seventh grades and then second year and fourth year of high school)—that’s it. The door is closed, and it is almost impossible to find an entry point to continue, unless the family is wealthy and can afford a private education.
Tonight, I informed the girls in Form I (first year of high school) and pre-form I (girls who have completed grade 7 and hope to enter Form I in January 2017 and become a Hostel girl) of upcoming entrance examinations. Because the public school system is so poor here (for example, no math teachers for a full semester at the nearby secondary school where many of our girls attend), the Sisters are hoping to arrange scholarships for the pre-form I and Form I girls to attend a highly regarded Catholic school a few miles away. The tuition fees are steep, way out of reach of every one of the girls. However, the donors to the scholarship fund want to provide our brightest girls this opportunity for a good education.
But first, they must pass entrance examinations in Math and English. So, won’t you please join your hearts and minds with our girls: Alexia, Bonafasia, Catherine, Desderia, Diana, Emmy, Ester, Elizabeth, Esperanza, Grace, Jenista, Judith, Khadija, Lucy, Maria, Restuta, Shangwe, Scolastica, Simini, Salma, and Vanessa.
And while you are being “one” with our dear young neighbors, please remember in your prayers and well wishes the Form 4 girls who are now taking their national examinations: Helena, Ritha, and Monica. Each one is BRIGHT and quite capable of continuing beyond secondary school—if they score high enough on those darn examinations.
Our girls are waiting for the world to open up and give them a chance!
Finding the Familiar in the New
By Sister Jackie Goodin, CSJ
After two year’s absence, I can see the many adaptations made by the Sister-staff of St. Joseph Hostel in Songea,Tanzania, to meet the ongoing and emerging needs of the girls—our global sisters and daughters. Yet, the mission of the Hostel remains the same because the need to support girls in earning their secondary school diploma is as important as ever. Already I’ve heard numerous sad stories of girls unable to complete their basic education—typically because of teen pregnancy. This reality only underscores the need for the continuation of the Hostel here in southwestern Tanzania.
First, the good news of reunions! Two former Hostel students came to visit the Sisters and to speak with younger Hostel girls. Some of you may remember Upendo, a lovely and bright girl (an orphan) who was so good in English. She has just begun her second year of medical school in Dar Es Salaam. She is planning on specializing in pediatrics. Upendo is the grateful recipient of ongoing financial assistance from Italian donors. We are so hopeful that her future young patients will benefit from her care as she gives much needed medical care in a country where there simply are not enough well-trained health care workers.
The happy reunion continued with Shamira’s visit. She gave a pep talk to the girls who are now studying very hard for their end-of-course examinations. Shamira, also a recipient of scholarship assistance from Italian donors, is in her second year of training as a Clinical Medical Officer (similar to Physicians Assistant). She ended her visit in tears because Sister Nilza was able to gift her with a much needed new lap top which will better enable her to advance in her course work.
So much to be positive about and grateful for. Then, just this morning, I heard of a 14-year-old girl who was supposed to come to the Hostel to begin her high school education in January. However, she is pregnant, and her parents are unwilling to have her continue in school. And so it is as clear as ever why the Hostel is so important here.