Southern Africa Province, Multiple Countries
Jesuit Missions works with a number of partners across Southern Africa – covering Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and South Africa.
Fr Nigel Johnson SJ, the Province’s Development Director, tells us how supporting education schemes has improved many people’s lives in the region.
We are currently supporting the education of 416 children, mostly in primary and secondary schools, but including a small number who are furthering their education at university or technical colleges.
The beneficiaries are all in Southern Africa; most of our children in Zimbabwe are attending day schools run by local councils, while those in Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia are attending Jesuit run schools.
Two years ago, we conducted a needs assessment in each of these four countries. This revealed that, although many were in need of school fees, others were in need of transport (bicycles) to travel long distances each day to attend school.
Others needed assistance with basic hygiene and health items: soap, sanitary wear, medication; for others it was school uniforms, exercise books, pens etc. Many of the children also need some psych-social support. Thus the support we provide is tailor made for the needs of each individual child.
If you live in an economically advanced country in Europe or North America, then you take it for granted that the state provides a variety of services to support its people: unemployment benefits, free education, health care etc.
However, none of the countries of Southern Africa are able to do this; our governments may manage to pay teachers’ and nurses salaries, but never have sufficient funds to cover a school’s running expenses.
Thus, apart from feeding and clothing their children, parents also have to find funds to send their children to school. Many fail to do this; indeed many children have to go out working in the fields or on the city streets in order to supplement the family income.
We regularly meet young adults who are extremely intelligent, capable and resourceful, but completely illiterate. If only they had managed to go to school, they would be able to earn a decent living, rise out of poverty and be able to support their extended family.
Indeed, through the JOESA programme, we now have doctors, accountants and other professionals who, if they had missed out on school, would still be scratching a living out of the soil or vending on the city streets.
My work as Jesuit Development Director includes overseeing a whole series of Jesuit programmes and projects in Southern Africa; these include residential homes for orphans, hearing impaired children, and street children rehabilitation.
Then there are projects providing equipment for hospitals and media outreach, construction of school science & computer laboratories, school dormitories & kitchens.
In the case of the JOESA programme, my work involves working with those involved in implementing the programme to plan how to be most effective in identifying the needy children, how exactly to cater for their different needs, raising the funds necessary to run the programme, and consolidating annual narrative and financial annual reports.
When John the Baptist was asked by the people, “What must we do then” (Luke 3:11). He replied, “If anyone has two tunics, he must share with the person who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same”.
I was brought up in Britain in the 1950s and 60s where I received free secondary education for six years, then a further five years of university education. I have spent of my life since then happily sharing what I was privileged to receive with those who have had no chance of the same.
I therefore appeal to others to join me in sharing what they have, to enable young people in Southern Africa to achieve their ambitions and have a future to look forward to.
Tadiwanashe Chakamhara, 22, is one of those who has benefitted from a project backed by Jesuit Missions. She shares her story below:
I am now in my third year at Africa University studying a bachelor’s degree in Accounting, funded by the Jesuits.
The financial assistance you have offered me has given me peace of mind without having to worry about my school fees and l am putting all my effort into my college work.
I am very pleased to let you know that l have performed extraordinarily well in the past four semesters, appearing on the ‘Dean’s List’ three times.
Asides from my schoolwork, l am part of the school choir and l play the acoustic guitar for the church services. I am also a member of the Rotary Club, which gives back to the community through donating to children’s homes.
It is my hope that when l am gainfully employed and financially stable, l will be able to assist other young learners to accomplish their studies because were it not for the financial aid you are offering me, l would have not been where l am today and for that l am truly grateful.
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