Those Msanda Boys

Those Msanda Boys

This was the week, in six regions all across the country of Tanzania, that new students started enrolling in our schools to come study English. They just finished their national exams to complete their seven years of primary school education, and they and their families won’t find out for four months who will get chosen to get to go on to the 8th grade in the government schools. We’re not waiting though. In all of the villages around our schools people know that we’re bringing all of the kids into our classrooms, and we’re teaching them English so that they’re ready to start school and start school well. We take the boys and the girls, we take the kids with parents and the kids whose parents are already dead, we have no admission test to somehow choose the best and brightest – we simply believe that every single child should get to go to school – and we make sure everywhere that everyone knows that it is on that principle that we stand.

We opened two more new schools this past week: Samaria in the Njombe region and Shangwale in the Mbeya region. As I sit here and think about the marvel of two more schools opening, I find I just can’t stop smiling. I feel like I can see the smile on my face as I sit here in the comfortable chair in Susan’s office. It makes me smile to think that it’s Fredfas who is the headmaster opening the Shangwale school. You see Fredfas is one of three kids we called “the Msanda boys” back in the days over a decade ago when Susan and I were at Makuzani Secondary School. In the beginning, Fredfas seldom came more than two or three days in any given week. It was a very long distance to walk from their village of Msanda and the three of them, the Msanda boys, always came together. They just didn’t come all that regularly. Until one day Susan had had enough. That was the day that she just up and walked all the way to their village and met with their parents, and with the head of their village, and with anyone who would listen to her. The Msanda Boys started coming all five days of the week. I smile when I think of it. How we loved that little school. And how we loved those kids. Those were truly some of the best years of our lives.

And so today from the little village of Msanda we have Fredfas. Not only did he finish secondary school, he went on to finish his advanced levels, and now he has his college degree. He’s already served with as us the headmaster of our Lukima school, and now Fredfas is the one we have chosen to go open the new Shangwale school.

The other two Msanda boys? Ntula has served with us faithfully now for 7 years. His latest project is to work with people in three villages in the Morogoro region at the base of the great escarpment to finish building our Taita school so that the school inspectors can come next month to register and accredit that school. And then there’s Msafiri. He ended up going to medical school and he is the one who today heads up our HIV/AIDS clinic.

Among the “what ifs” that I ask myself of course there is the big “what if”: what if that little school Makuzani had never opened and those three boys had never gotten to go to school. What if after the first year – because that first year was tough – what if that school had died? What if we had given up when things got tough? But the bigger question that I ask myself as I sit here is what if Susan had been content to just teach the kids who came to school every day and had not decided that day to go the extra mile (well, more like the extra ten miles) to walk all the way to Msanda to talk with their parents and the elders of their village?

I’m also really happy about the school opening at Samaria. Issa is the one who has struggled with those people to finish up those classrooms, he’s the one who has traveled to villages near and far to sign up students, and it’s Issa and his friend Gift, both former students of ours from our Makuzani days, who are teaching English to the first kids who are coming. Again, I sit here and I ask myself over and over again “what if” there had been no Makuzani and “what if” Issa and Gift had never gotten to go to school.

My thoughts wander to the pastor from that little village of Samaria. Gervas is the one who served as the bridge to get us to actually travel all the way to hear those people tell us they were ready to work to build a school. He’s away at theological school now, and it is there that he heard from one of his friends about Village Schools. I’ve been preaching over and over to our kids here that when you are blessed you have a responsibility before God to be a channel of blessing to others. That means that if you are so blessed as to know the True and Living God, then you have a responsibility to tell others about Him. If you are so blessed to get to go to school you can’t leave others behind and to not help them also get into school. If you are so blessed to understand how not to get diarhea or AIDS or any of the other illnesses that plague us here, you can’t just keep that blessing only for yourself, you have to ask God to use you so that that same blessing can go to others. Gervas got to study! He got to go to primary school, and then on to secondary school, and then to the university, and now to theological college. Well what if he forgot about all of those people back in his home village, the kids who will never get to go beyond primary school, who won’t be chosen to go to secondary school, and for whom the doors will forever be shut to becoming doctors and nurses and professors and pastors and engineers and anything else that they might dream of becoming! What if he just didn’t care?

So this week, I celebrate Fredfas and Issa and Gift and Gervas and the opening of those two new schools. But as I think of Shangwale mostly I feel in my heart a great desire to celebrate Susan and the fact that she walked all the way to Msanda all those years ago. Our lives certainly would be less rich without those Msanda Boys. No Msafiri, and it’s so hard to imagine how we could possibly be running the HIV/AIDS clinic. No Ntula, and it hurts to think of how many schools we would have missed out on having the joy of seeing him build. No Fredfas, and I don’t have a clue of how we would have opened Shangwale Secondary School this week. Susan had no way back then of knowing what those Msanda boys would end up doing with their lives – all she knew back was that she cared about them and that she couldn’t do nothing.

Samaria and Shangwale are our 27th and 28th schools to open their doors in Tanzania. You can have a look at the map of our schools on our website at If you know some individuals who might want to teach in one of our schools, prayerfully consider telling them about Village Schools and inviting them to visit our website and to write to us.