Education for girls from poor families: religious women in the front line
Dar es Salaam (Agenzia Fides) - In Tanzania, studying is still a privilege. Although education is formally promoted by public authorities, it is difficult for boys and girls to attend regular school courses. Among the problems limiting access is that of the scarce presence of schools in the rural areas of the African country. Since 2005, the Tanzanian government has taken important steps to increase access to secondary education, committing itself to building new secondary schools.
However, in some remote areas of the country, students have to travel up to 25 kilometers to reach the school, not to mention that more and more people stop their studies due to the high costs of transportation, uniforms and books. According to World Bank data, less than a third of girls reach lower secondary school (middle school) education. 30% of the Tanzanian population is illiterate (a figure that rises to 50-60% in rural areas).
Girls from the poorest families are those who suffer the most and who, once they reach 18 years of age, are often forced to marry and therefore stop going to school. Added to this is the tough selection made by educational institutions that impose severe exams to move from primary school to lower secondary school and then from this to upper secondary school.
In this context, the work carried out by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery, who for some years have opened the St. Joseph Chambery Center in Songea, takes on a particular meaning. "Born as a hostel – explains to Agenzia Fides Sister Marielena Aceti, general councilor of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph – it has become a structure that offers reception and assistance to vulnerable young people who come from particularly poor families. The sisters help them to complete their studies. Over time the institution has acquired great credibility both at a regional and national level. It is no coincidence that the Tanzanian authorities have officially recognized it as a charitable work".
In recent months, the hostel has become a non-profit entity. This will make it easier to work with the country's schools, educational and social organizations.
In the meantime, however, the results are excellent. "In 2019 - concluded Sister Mariaelena - 14 girls completed their studies and all with excellent results. They received many awards for the grades achieved. All will continue their studies at university. The goal is to be able to make them serious professionals capable of helping their country and their communities as doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers".
Many communities of religious and lay people in Italy and in other countries also participate in this effort, raising funds that allow girls to study. "It is also thanks to donations - Sister Mariaelena concludes - that we can continue to support this structure. We like to think that a red thread of solidarity unites our country with Tanzania".