I’ve seen plenty of poverty in Tanzania. Education is one of the keys to changing a society and moving people away from poverty. Educating children is also a long-term project. It’s not a quick one-time effort, but must continue year after year after year. That makes operating a school and paying the expenses a big job.
How does Orphans Africa manage this?
Let’s just look at the costs for the educational staff. For example, the Marilynn Pre- and Primary School educates many orphans who are integrated with the rest of the school’s population. Let’s assume we are running a school educating 100 children. The primary school has 7 standards or grades. We would need 7 primary teachers and 2 nursery school teachers, a headmaster and an administrative person at minimum. The yearly cost for salaries, government taxes and medical insurance for these 11 educators comes to $32,537 per year. That would be a huge ongoing financial burden in conjunction with ongoing school development, expenses for supplies, maintenance and repair, etc. Sounds like a lot? Let’s compare this to the United States. According to the US Census Bureau, “The 50 states and the District of Columbia spent an average of $10,560 per student in 2011.”¹ In the US, we could educate 3 children for the $32,537 per year spent at the Marilynn School.
However, it is vital that Tanzanians not become dependent. They need to stand on their own two feet and learn to do it themselves. Leaving them dependent on Western aid would be an inappropriate result. So what does Orphans Africa really pay for educating orphans at the Marilynn School? The answer may surprise you. OA pays nothing. Zero. Not one cent of the $32,537! The Marilynn Pre- and Primary School in Tanzania is completely self-sustaining.
Orphans Africa uses a self-sustaining model. In addition to orphans, OA also admits children who have parents who pay school fees. Those fees operate the daily expenses of the school, allowing the orphans to attend for free. Orphans Africa saves $32,537 a year by using this model! The funding from Orphans Africa can therefore go toward continued development: classrooms, science laboratories and equipment, libraries, water wells and toilets, as well as improving the overall quality of education.
There are other valuable benefits to this self-sustaining model.
We do it the same way we would educate orphans in the Western world. We don’t segregate. We integrate the school with orphans and non-orphans. Integration helps to remove any stigma from being an orphan in an orphanage.
It allows donated funds to more quickly and efficiently complete construction of the school so that it is fully operational and can even educate more students. Therefore, we don’t have to continue paying for operations on an indefinite basis, which would be very expensive and never end. Our financial exposure is finite.
It engenders motivation and independence for all of the educators at our school. They know that the school must be successful for them to keep their jobs. We want Tanzanians to do it themselves and not be dependent on anyone.
We can focus on providing technical expertise, specialized equipment and teacher education rather than day-to-day expenses.
Our school’s quality of education is excellent. Orphans Africa has the highest national examination student test scores in their respective districts by far! Therefore, all students benefit, not just the orphans. The end result is an eventual zero cost to educate orphans plus an increase in the quality of education for all students.
Children can simply continue coming year after year until they are finished. Is that a big deal? YES! The average number of years of schooling in Tanzania is 5.1 years.² The educational system in Tanzania fails when compared to the urgent need. Children simply don’t get enough education for a variety of reasons, almost all of them related to extreme poverty. Making quality education available for ALL students to finish is a great success. The orphans win, the non-orphans win, Tanzania wins and Orphans Africa wins! Orphans Africa is able to leverage resources in the right direction for the right results.
Orphans Africa envisions a day when all the schools operate independently and when all of the students, non-orphans and orphans alike, graduate with a quality education and a promising future. OA is well on the way.