Our Leadership College

Village Schools International has a dual mission: to enable those in villages who would otherwise never get to go to school to have the opportunity to get an education; and to send missionaries into villages where missionaries have never lived before to share the Gospel. When we began this ministry in 2005, we started with a goal of opening 56 schools in 20 years in villages throughout Tanzania. The first school was built in 70 days, and that launched a movement that today involves people from over 200 villages partnering together to build schools for their children. We are thankful to be a part of something God has made to be far bigger than anything we could have ever dared imagine. He has brought together a huge team, most of them from small villages in Tanzania, but also many individuals, churches and foundations from North America, Europe and Australia to partner together with Him to bring all of this to fruition.

Village Schools Tanzania (VST) continues to grow not only numerically in terms of the number of schools opened, students enrolled, missionaries sent to serve in our schools, and regions where we have ministry, but we also continue to grow in terms of the nature of our work. Our latest, and perhaps biggest project to date, is the creation of a leadership college.

The Rationale for the Creation of a Leadership College

There are quite a few colleges and universities in Tanzania, and indeed many of those who have graduated from our VST schools are already off pursuing higher education. But we have become increasingly convinced that creating a leadership college is absolutely essential if VST is to fully reach its potential and do all that we believe God has called us to do:

We, and everyone else trying to run secondary schools in Tanzania, need school principals and teacher trainers who are trained to manage and administer schools and to provide on-going training for teachers. Currently we are forced in our schools to do what all other schools in Tanzania have to do: choose the best teacher to be the principal of the school, knowing full well that being able to teach well doesn’t necessarily mean being able to lead well. While people look to our schools as providing excellent quality education (because of our national exam results), we believe we can do even better if we have trained leaders, particularly if they are trained from a Christian perspective.

We, and anyone else trying to build schools, need project managers who are trained to mobilize communities and to oversee the building projects. We have succeeded these past thirteen years by choosing people who showed an intense desire to serve in VST, providing them with a week of training in project management and then having our leaders invest an immense amount of time and energy working with them on an on-going basis. We cannot argue with success (the communities have been mobilized and the schools have been built), but nonetheless we truly believe that a future with hundreds of schools all across Tanzania cannot realistically be obtained without a college to train project managers.

We, and every other Christian school in Tanzania, need school chaplains who are trained to lead our chapel services, teach our Bible Knowledge classes, provide counseling and be able to initiate activities in our schools designed to give students opportunities to accept Christ and to grow in their faith. While there are colleges in Tanzania to train pastors, that kind of training is very different from the kind of training one needs to serve as a school chaplain. Currently we rely upon people with good hearts and a desire to serve the Lord, but they have no formal training. We are thankful for the ministry our missionaries do, but we know that we cannot reach our full potential unless we train a large number of Tanzanian chaplains to serve in our schools.

In brief, our primary purpose for creating this leadership college is to enable VST to better fulfill its mission: to build more and more schools, to lead those schools in a better way once they are built, to share the Gospel and to help our students grow spiritually. Our VST leaders are committed to creating this college, our students have been enthusiastic about volunteering to help build it, and in villages partnering with VST to build secondary schools, people have watched the campus being built with a great degree of pride and excitement.

We also sense a great opportunity. We see a future in which we will have an excellent institution to train principals for secondary schools, and we will have the opportunity to train them all from a Christian perspective! Certainly many will serve with VST and accomplish good with us, but we are also excited about sending out leaders to do ministry in schools all over Tanzania. If we train project managers, they will enable us to continue VST’s rapid expansion, but we also see our graduates landing jobs of great importance in government and in private enterprise—helping the country and also being a good witness for the Lord as they serve both competently and ethically. The greatest benefit of training chaplains will of course accrue to VST and we will be thankful for the impact our graduates will have on our own students. But we also know that our chaplains will be able to serve in church-run schools throughout the country, providing us with a great opportunity to serve the larger Christian community as it seeks to impact Tanzanian society.

Our progress to date

Things are already far beyond the “dream” stage. The village of Igoda donated 55 acres of largely wooded land in an excellent location, and the campus is already well under construction. We have completed four lecture halls, the library and computer center, the administration building, and we are currently roofing our housing for the professors. We have progressed faster than we normally would have thanks to our students who have volunteered to help build the college. And we have benefited from the expertise of professors in America and in Tanzania who are helping to design the curriculum. In March 2012 we felt that we were far enough along in the construction of the campus to approach the Ministry of Education with our plans to open the college in May 2015.

As important as it is to complete building the campus, the process is almost more important to us. We want to build our entire campus without using any non-Tanzanian labor or supervisors. We also want to involve our students as much as possible by giving them the opportunity to voluntarily serve with no thought of return except for the joy of having participated in something of great value. And we want to use this time to create within our own students a profound desire to study at the college to be trained either as a principal, a project manager, or a chaplain. We will evaluate ourselves as much on these things as we will on the actual completion of the buildings. That is why we chose one of our former students, Festo Lunyali, to lead the project of building our college campus. He was yet another very bright kid with tremendous potential who was never supposed to go to secondary school. The year he finished primary school he wasn’t chosen to go to the government school, so he got married, he farmed, he had children and was a good member of his village. In 2005, together with thousands of people from five villages, he worked to make bricks and haul stones to build VST’s first school, and then Festo became a student again. He served in student government, learned to lead and mobilize people as he worked with the student body to do a water project, to build 4 additional classrooms and 3 teacher houses—all wonderful preparation for his task of overseeing the building of the college. He does so with a sense a purpose and mission, believing that this is the contribution that God would have him make to the future of his country.

But in the largest sense, the true evaluation of the impact of the building of the college is of course in what the college is used for. Some things can be tangibly measured: student enrollment, graduation rates and post-graduation employment rates. Some things are less easily quantified but still vitally important to us: do our students experience real growth in their Christian lives by being a part of this college community and to what extent do our students embrace a mission of service to God and to the poor and the needy. These are all indicators, quantifiable or not, of the impact on those who enroll to study in the college. We also, however, see great potential impact upon our secondary schools because we will be using our own schools as “laboratories” where our students will be doing their practical training. The government is insistent that our students spend not less than the equivalent of 3 months each academic year doing practical training, something that excites us and has become core to what we believe will be very unique about our college. The greatest impact, however, is when we look to the future: since no one else is training school principals, we imagine a day when a significant percentage of all of the principals in the country will have graduated from our college.

What we envision the College will look in the future

The college is designed eventually to admit 180 students a year to a three-year program. We will offer three separate tracks to train principals, project managers and chaplains. Because it is logical that those being trained to serve as principals should also be trained to be educators, and because our chaplains need to be trained to teach our Bible Knowledge course, we have agreed with those in the Ministry of Education that we should also have a fourth track designed to train secondary school teachers, but we will go a step further and prepare them to be teacher trainers. Principals and chaplains will be required to take a significant number of these education courses in order to fulfill their degree requirements.

The college will be a Christian college. While admission will be open to Christians and non-Christians alike, we will require everyone to study the Firm Foundations Bible instruction materials developed by New Tribes Mission, materials we have already adapted for use in all of our secondary schools. Chapel will be student-led and serve as a “laboratory” for the students enrolled in the chaplaincy program. Since a significant number of students admitted to our college will be enrolled in the chaplaincy program, it should ensure that campus life will be decidedly Christian.

The college will be a training college. We intend for all of our students to spend half of their time on campus and half of their time out in our network of schools putting what they have learned into practice. This will more than exceed the current government guidelines and ensure that those who complete their studies at our college will be trained to actually serve as principals, project managers and chaplains.

The college will be a self-supporting college. A bedrock principle of VST has been that all of our schools must be self-supporting from the day they open. A commitment to the principle of sustainability has enabled us to run for almost 15 years now a self-supporting network of secondary schools. While we obviously welcome funding for the construction of the college, we never want to accept any outside funds for the on-going operation of the college, nor do we want the college to be dependent upon funds from any so-called “income-generating projects.” The college will be funded entirely by tuition paid by its students.

The college will be a rural college. We intend to give priority admission to students coming from villages and we intend for those studying at the college to be an integral part of life in the village of Igoda, which has given us the land for the college. All practical training will be done in our VST schools which are, of course, all located in villages. Our objective is to train people who will not only be comfortable living in villages, but who will come out of the college with a vision and a calling to serve in villages.

Praying for the College

1) Pray for more workers.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:37-38

We do not have a paid professional recruiter in America and we do not offer any spectacular incentives to attract Tanzanian teachers to serve in our schools. We have chosen instead to rely upon God through the prayers of His people to provide workers. We have received 208 missionary teachers in the last 14 years, and our schools are consistently well staffed with Tanzanian, Malawian and Zambian teachers.

That is why we believe in the importance of asking people to pray for God to call professors to serve at the college.

2) Pray for open doors.

“And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ.” Colossians 4:3

We never “target” a village where we want to build a school. We only go where we are invited and therefore we are dependent upon God, through the prayers of His people, to open doors for ministry so that people invite us to come. We currently have 48 schools open and another 5 construction projects under way.

That is why we believe in the importance of asking people to pray for God to give the professors and the students at our college open doors for ministry.

3) Pray for wisdom and discernment for our leaders.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

Our goal is to continue to grow the college, but we need wisdom to decide how fast God would have us do that.

Our commitment is for the college to be self-supporting and sustainable; we need wisdom to make wise decisions about school fees and salaries.

We believe God would have us give priority admission to the poor, those from villages and women; we need wisdom about how to prioritize this.

Enthusiasm in Tanzania for the college has already prompted people in the west and south to offer land for a second and a third college. We need wisdom to decide if we should opt for a single centralized college or if in the long-term we should indeed opt to eventually open a network of leadership colleges throughout Tanzania.