Fighting poverty through education

Uniform:Jenny and Greg Fleming with the newly outfitted students in their Georges River jersey's.
Uniform:Jenny and Greg Fleming with the newly outfitted students in their Georges River jersey's.

Jenny and Greg Fleming recently swapped Sutherland Shire's busy streets for one of Africa's most popular safari destinations, but they weren't there just for the wildlife, they were playing their part in helping some of the country's poorest students graduate year 12.

The Oyster Bay family travelled to The School of St Jude in Arusha, Tanzania, set up by a NSW humanitarian, Gemma Sisia, 17 years ago.

Thanks to the support of thousands of Australians like Jenny and Greg, 1,800 promising yet impoverished students now have access to a free, high-quality education and the chance of a bright future.

Jenny and Greg have sponsored their academically-gifted student Sarafina for 13 years and celebrated the completion of her schooling at the vibrant graduation ceremony with her family last month. Their local soccer club Georges River Football Club also donated two sets of jerseys, which the students loved.

Jenny said their highlight was having an impromptu game of soccer with the kids wearing their Georges River Football Club jerseys.

"The kids are adorable and were very excited wearing their new jerseys and had a wonderful time."

"We first became aware of the program when our daughter, Georgia was at high school and an ex-student, Gemma Sisia, had set up her school for gifted and talented children from poor families to provide education, wholly funded by sponsorships and donations, thereby fighting poverty through education." Jenny said

Student Sarafina has come a long way since joining St Jude's in 2007. Her family live in a rented, one-room brick home in Sanawari, a poor and densely populated area close to Arusha Town. Like many Tanzanian dwellings, Sarafina's home has no plumbing; water is collected from a tap for a small per-bucket fee and meals are prepared over a simple kerosene-fueled stove.

Graduation is a rite of passage many Tanzanians don't achieve; according to UNICEF, in Tanzania almost 70 per cent of children aged 14-17 years are not enrolled in secondary education and only 3.2 per cent are enrolled for the final two years of schooling.

The School of St Jude is changing this and is marking a special milestone in 2019 with the biggest group of senior graduating students in the school's history, 169.

For Founder Gemma Sisia, the graduation ceremony and spending time with supporters is one of the highlights of the year.

"It's thanks to good people from all around the world, and particularly Australia, that this day is made possible for our year six graduates," Gemma said.