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Tanzania, Chekerini : A School is born

Kenya

The official inauguration of st. Marie-Eugenie Girls’ Secondary School

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The 5th of July dawned early in the compound of St. Marie Eugenie Girls’ Secondary School with the excitement in everyone’s --- both the young and not so young--- heart ! The past days had seen the harvesting of the maize and the cleaning of the grounds to provide parking space for the visitors’ vehicles, the setting up of the striped green and white tents with the chairs neatly placed, making sure the trees and flowers were watered so they were green and blooming for the big day. The school buildings were sparkling and so were the school grounds !

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But preparations had begun even earlier, and not only material ones...weeks before the whole school had a retreat with Fr. Msuri who made us understand the meaning of a school blessing, filling us with a spirit of thanksgiving for all that God had been doing for us, for the gift the school is to us. We re-read the four years since the ‘soft’ opening of the school in 2010 with its first 90 students and we recognized how God was with us, protecting us, walking with us through each phase of the construction. He told us that the blessing would indeed make our school, ‘holy ground,’ a place where God dwells. Bro. David, sdb, also helped us reflect on our vocation that came from the vocation of St. Marie Eugenie who founded something beautiful for the Church.


Many people from all walks of life and from many places had helped us. From the inception of the project, the Congregation had created a Commission made up of Sr. Lucy Diu, then the incoming principal of SMEGSS at its birthing stage, Sr. Josefina Maria from the Philippines and Sr. Therese Agnes from France. This Commission accompanied the school helping it articulate its vision and mission and direction, forming the educational community of Sisters and lay, so that this would truly be a school after St. Marie Eugenie’s own heart and spirit !


Different Provinces of the Congregation gave support to this mobilizing project of the Congregation and came on that day to celebrate and give thanks with us ! Friends, alumnae, parents who contributed to help build the perimeter fence to protect the school, the


hard-working and committed Board of Trustees were all there in full force. Our sister-schools, St. Marie Eugenie Primary School from Iguguno, Sangiti Secondary school in Moshi and Holy Spirit Academy all the way from Kangundo in Kenya, came to join in our joy !


Of course, our most important guests were our own Bishop, Rt. Reverend Isaac Imani, our Superior General, Sr. Martine Tapsoba who came all the way from the Motherhouse, and former Minister of Parliament Chami who has always been a friend of the Assumption and encouraged us in our mission of education. These 3 guests represented all of us in planting trees as a symbol of the hope, life and promise for the future of the school.

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The flag-raising of the three flags of the Church, of Tanzania and one of St. Marie Eugenie that opened the ceremony, symbolized the spirit of the Assumption to be ‘rich with the spirit of the Church’ and its commitment to work for the transformation of society according to the Gospel.

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A significant moment during the Eucharist was the commitment made by the first 12 Assumption Lay members (11 from Singida and 1 from Iguguno) of East Africa in the presence of Sr. Martine. She invested them with the Congregational cross as they also each received from her a copy of ‘The Way of Life’ that spells out their way of living the spirit of the Assumption in their respective states of life.

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In his homily, the Bishop expressed his appreciation for our commitment to education even after all our first schools had experienced in the nationalization process of the country. He said this showed our total giftedness to God for the Church and s ociety...not looking back but only giving ourselves for the transformation of society. He affirmed how our first Assumption schools had made a difference, giving women leaders for the then newly independent Tanzania. We set a direction for Catholic education for girls that other schools could well emulate.

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The meal after the Eucharist was festive, complete with the special ‘cake’ cut by the Bishop and the other guests of honor. Meanwhile the students provided entertainment by showing their skills in dancing and singing. MP Chame, in his speech, gave the students 5 points that could help them succeed in their studies : love your teachers, study hard, engage in peer teaching, learn from other the experience of other well-performing schools in Tanzania and be self-confident, knowing that you can make it ! In his closing address, the Bishop commented on St. Marie Eugenie’s definition of education, ‘To allow the good to break through the rock

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that imprisons it, that it may come out into the light to blossom and shed its radiance’ and the school motto : ‘To know, to love and to serve.’ Sr. Martine spoke of how St. Marie Eugenie Girls’ Secondary School was born from the communion lived in the whole Congregation as it becomes a sign of hope and promise, a place of nurturing and transformation...of the person and of society. MP Chame further confirmed this when he said how already, the presence of the school in the village had transformed Chekereni from a remote, undeveloped village into a small town with plans by the government to put up a health center, electricity and water supply for the growing population. Even the outstation will soon have a

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community of priests (Congregation of the Mission) to minister to the faithful in the area. The architect reiterated what the Bishop said about maintaining the beauty of the surroundings and the buildings, passing it on as a beautiful heritage to future generations of students. ‘Will the school be as beautiful as it is today, twenty years from now ?’ The first students have shown how they have struggled through the difficult first years, they must pass on the same spirit to the ones that follow.

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The 5th July has come and gone, we are filled with the memories that filled that day. What remains though are the challenges that continue to lie ahead. We have worked hard and have gone far from that day in January 2010 when we dared to begin the school with the barest of facilities in place...no running water, no

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electricity, no kitchen nor dining room, no dormitory, no house for the Sisters, etc. Now, not only are the needed buildings (almost like a miracle !) slowly coming up but the school fence is almost through, the school community is integrating with the village, building relationships with the neighbors with scholars coming from village. This year, the national exam results for Forms 2 and 4 showed that SMEGSS belonged to the Top 10 /585 schools on the zonal level – with marks that are improving from year to year. MP Chame mentioned that the 10 top schools of

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Tanzania are Catholic schools, SMEGSS can be one of these top schools. There is no problem of discipline, the girls are responsible and creative and the student officers exercise good leadership. There is still a lot of infrastructure that needs to be put in place : laboratories, dining hall, library, multipurpose hall, chapel, a school bus, etc. Preparations to open Forms 5 and 6 with majoring in Science and Arts are in process. SMEGSS is God’s gift to us, what we make of this gift...becoming a faith-based school with students hopefully able to make a difference in society...is our gift back to God.


From Sr. Lucy Theresia


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