Newsletter from Africa – October 2010

Dear friends,                                                                                              October 2020

          Our school driver delivered a raft of Swahili and English newspapers this morning and I immediately began to devour the news of Covid-19 and the election campaigning both here and in the States. Our secretary just came by and asked if there was to be an October letter. I had completely forgotten so I am trying belatedly to make amends. We had a graduation ceremony for our Form IV students. It was a pleasure to see all 135 of them so confident mounting the stage to receive their certificates. Many of them were given medals and other awards for exceptional academic performance. This was at our school a private affair but they still must take the government exams to receive their official diplomas. Due to Covid-19 we did not invite any parents or outsiders so it was a quiet family affair. Now the students are concentrating on doing their best on the government final exams next month which will qualify them for higher study in the Advanced Level high school and ultimately to university level degrees.

          Another reason for having the graduation before the final examinations is to get the students settled psychologically so that they can concentrate on their preparation for the exams without the distraction of the fanfare of celebration that goes with the graduation ceremony. There is nightly extensive coverage of the campaign for the presidential election on TV which will take place on the 28th of this month. One of the most vigorous speakers, a man called Tundu Lisu, was hospitalized after he was shot 17 times during a parliamentary session but survived recovering for the most part in Europe. One of our former students from my first school which I built in the 1950 and 1960 years is also a candidate. His name is Bernard Membe and was the guest of honor some years back and mentioned that one of highlights of his time at St. Benedict’s, my first school, the boys were delighted when they got word that I would be gone for few days knowing that it meant I had gone into the bush on a hunting safari and they always knew that it would mean some feasting on fresh antelope or warthog.   

We have just finished the processing of students to be admitted to Form I next year. There are so many requests for places that we have three stations in larger cities to make it easier for the parents to have their children sit for our exam.

          This year 410 girls took the exam the number of prospected candidates was a bit down this year due to the corona epidemic. Our intake quota is only 150 for 3 streams in the first year of secondary school. Last year we had more than 600 taking the entrance exams. We give two entrance exams per year for, acceptances to Form I and another for Form V for the entrance into A Level, Advanced Secondary School. The competition is keen to get into Mazinde Juu since our success rate is high and every student who graduates qualifies for university. A good number also qualify for paid bursaries in whole or in part by the receiving colleges.

          My second school, also a girls school is called Kongei. It was started in 1995 when the local people petitioned the Bishop Telesphore Mkude, for a school like Mazinde Juu for their children. The Bishop told the villagers he would give them a school if they would have the government return the middle school and its property which they had taken over some years previously. Then before any action had taken place the bishop was transferred to another diocese. The villagers went to him and pleaded again for their school but he contested that since they had not yet got the old middle school returned to diocesan control therefore he was not ready to continue with his part of the bargain. However they insisted that they would continue with they are plan for a school and he as a Bishop should certainly keep his promise. A week later the Bishop’s secretary came to Mazinde Juu and told me that he the bishop wanted me to start a school at Kongei. I asked the secretary, Father George, whether the bishop had written a letter or a check for the project. There was neither just the verbal orders for a school. The first class of Kongei secondary school opened before the year 1995 closed out. Sad to say however the school is not doing well due to bad management and enrollment is way down and I have to skive and save to meet the monthly salaries for the staff.

  Fortunately we are managing to keep operational here at Mazinde Juu by the Grace of God and diligence and your generous help.

Yours sincerely,

Father Damian

Form Four Graduation Day
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