In Tanzania, a child starts school at age 7. In theory, primary school is free here. While it's true that there are no tuition fees, there are numerous costs associated with those first years of school. School uniforms must be purchased; without a uniform, a child is sent home. Books need to be bought as well as other school supplies.
Each child's family must provide 40 pounds of corn and 20 pounds of beans, which will be used for school lunches. It costs a full day's wages from each family to pay for school security.
And each year it gets worse.
Secondary school costs a month's wages — an exorbitant amount to pay for crowded classrooms and untrained teachers. But a private school can be up to $525 a year. Testing, required for students to pass into the next level, is $35.
With each added cost, more children drop out of school. They get jobs, they marry too early, and the cycle of poverty continues.
Oscar and Obed, brothers living in Tanzania, were firmly entrenched in that cycle of poverty. Their father died when they were 2 years old, and their mother had to relocate the family to a rural community in Arusha. On their small plot of land they grew bananas, corn and beans, but there was never enough money for food or school.
In 1999, Oscar and Obed were enrolled with Compassion, where the project staff enrolled the boys at the Njani Primary School. The boys excelled, and in six years they were ready for secondary school. Through Compassion's Complementary Interventions fund, the boys graduated to the next level, and even moved on to high school.
"God was with us and we performed very well, which opened for us the opportunity to go to high school," says Obed.
The boys studied chemistry and biology in high school, where they continued to shine. And gradually, through the support of Compassion and the encouragement of their sponsors, nothing seemed impossible anymore. They are among the 15,000 students in Tanzania who are furthering their education through Compassion's education program.
The impossible has become possible. And with each class, each level of school completed, the cycle of poverty is weakened.
Obed and Oscar are now applying at several universities in Tanzania, and both have applied to Compassion's Leadership Development Program.
"We have resolved to study nursing or veterinary medicine," says Oscar. "We believe we will be able to achieve our life goals and impact the community in any field we pursue."