Wednesday 24 April 2019

Sr Anne's efforts leads to new bus for Tanzanian school

Funds raised in Wicklow help with purchase of the bus

Pupils of Bugisi English Medium OLA Primary School beside the new bus
Pupils of Bugisi English Medium OLA Primary School beside the new bus
Sr Anne McCormack

Myles Buchanan

A Missionary sister from the Garden County is proving how the support of a community such as Wicklow can make a difference 10,000km away in Bugisi, Tanzania.

Last month the sound of the school bells once again filled the autumnal air across Ireland.

At the same time, the sound of great joy rang out in the rural heartlands of northern Tanzania in East Africa as the shiny new 30 seater yellow school bus began its first journey.

With this development, 192 young boys and girls of the Bugisi English Medium OLA Primary School face a new exciting reality. The new bus was made possible thanks to the generosity of the people Ireland and, in a particular way, to the people of Bray and surrounding areas.

The connection between Bray and Bugisi goes back to 2001 when the Parish of Our Lady Queen of Peace was twinned with Bugisi Parish in 2001.

Sr. Anne McCormack, a native of Shankill, and who has family in Bray, is a Missionary Sister of Our Lady of Apostle (OLA) currently on mission at the OLA convent in Ardfoyle, Cork.

She was among the first group of OLA Sisters who arrived in Bugisi in 1991. Education and healthcare were to the forefront of their mission.

Owing to the support from Ireland over the years, Bugisi now offers quality healthcare and education to thousands who live in Bugisi Parish and beyond. The new bus is the latest example of this.

To some, a new bus may not seem like a huge deal. However, the development is 'revolutionary', according Sr. Anne, who worked in Bugisi Parish for over 20 years.

A recent UN report found that Tanzania is one of the least urbanized countries in the world with the majority living in remote regions.

The Parish of Bugisi, located in the northern Shinyanga Region of the east African state, is no different. Over 35 villages are dotted across the fifty square mile parish. The bicycle is the main mode of transport on the dirt roads that criss-cross its vast expanses.

Until recently many primary level students had little choice but to board at the OLA Primary School in Bugisi given that the distances were too great to travel each day on foot or by bike. The new bus now means that many can instead make the daily commute to receive a quality education and families will no longer have to pay boarding costs.

Sr. Anne says the new bus has made a major impact.

'It would be about 15km from Bray to UCD. There are many in Bugisi Parish who would be a similar distance from the OLA Primary School. To put it in perspective, a family in Bray would have to decide if they would be able to afford a 'bike taxi' every day or go down the boarding route. One must also remember that there would be very limited access to money in these rural parts of Tanzania. As there is no employment in Bugisi, families are reliant on the land. If the rains come and there is a good crop, all is well.

'If there are no rains, they may be unable to pay for the cost of boarding meaning that some children would drop out. Others who used to walk from closer areas used to be unable to come to school during the rainy season. The bus means they have a better chance of finishing school and, of course, it goes without saying that small children are better off with their own families at such a young age.'

'The need for boarding has now been virtually eliminated for many with the new 30 seater school bus travelling up to 30 minutes in each direction to pick-up the children in the morning and drop them home in the afternoon,' said Sr Anne.

The OLA English Medium Primary school in Bugisi opened in 2011 and is building-up year by year. Currently it has classes from Kindergarten up to the equivalent to third class in Ireland. The school expects to reach sixth class level in three years time.

The new bus is a step in the right direction for the school, insists Sr. Anne.

'In a literal sense this bus will carry children to and from school but it also carries the children's future hopes and dreams while opening them to a world full of possibility and opportunity.'

Wicklow People