LIV and Village Schools International
LIV is proud to be a partner with Steve and Susan Vinton of Village Schools International in Tanzania.
This year more than 850,000 children should finish primary school in Tanzania. The government has room for only 98,000 to start secondary school. The other 752,000 will never get a chance to go to school. Unless as Christian people we decide to do something.
VSI sends missionary teachers to small villages in Africa to get so involved in the lives of their students that sharing the gospel is the natural result of loving them. Their first school was built in early 2005 in just 70 days, inspiring a movement that today involves people from 127 villages working together to build schools for their children. Sixteen schools are already open, seven others are under construction, and almost 3700 students are enrolled who otherwise would never have had a chance to go to school.
This letter from Steve Vinton in early 2010 reveals something of the spirit of the ministry:
When Godfrey and Emmanueli came to get me this morning and we got into the car and we turned right after we came out of the big forest I began to suspect what their big surprise had to be. When after a couple of miles they turned on the road heading towards Mudabulo village, and then made the turn heading up towards the 55 acres of land the village had given us to build our college, I smiled inside, convinced that I knew what surprise they had prepared for me. And when we came through the woods into the meadow near the top of the hill my eyes saw the walls of the first three lecture halls, so beautifully and wonderfully built, and I was thrilled to the depths of my soul. Godfrey and Emmanueli just smiled. And then we bounded out of the car and the three of us ran and danced together hugging and banging each other on the back. What a tremendous sight it was to see. Glorious. All of the truckloads upon truckloads of stones that our students had hauled, the hundreds of thousands of bricks that had been carried during these past three years, the mounds of sand, the huge piles of gravel that had been pounded painstakingly by hand, it was now after all these years of waiting so patiently and sometimes so very impatiently, it was all being turned into our college. Our dream college.
But that wasn't their special surprise. It certainly was a surprise -- but it wasn't their special suprise. And Godfrey didn't succeed in making my eyes well up with tears of joy until from behind one of the walls out walked Festo. He's the one Mzee who we chose to do his internship working under me and Emmanueli supervising the building of this college. I was so happy that I did indeed feel my eyes well up in tears. You see it was Festo's father who welcomed us to the village of Igoda in 2005 and he was the one who gave the land, the whole Madisi hill, where we built our very first school, where we all live together now, where VSI first started taking shape. Festo was yet another kid who was never supposed to get to go to secondary school. The year he finished primary school he wasn't chosen to get to go to the government school and so Festo got married, he farmed, he planted trees, he had children, he was a good member of the village. Until the year his father gave the land for the building of the school. That was the year that Festo became a student again. And now five years later, Festo has finished his ordinary level studies (with honors near the top of his class no less), and while he waits for the results from the national examination council so he can do his advanced level studies, Festo is building the college. We have two years to build this college Mzee. I smiled. We will get it finished Mzee. I smiled again. It will be a lot of work building this whole campus. This is where I'm going to go to college Mzee. That succeeded in causing my eyes to well up again.
I've built two colleges here on this continent -- both of them in Congo -- one, a teachers training college, and the second one, a theological college. They both continue to this day to produce young men and women with five-year degrees who are building their country and changing lives. But those colleges weren't anything particularly special. I was young back then and I just wanted to train teachers and I just wanted to train pastors and any curriculum would do. But this college, my third college and I suspect my final college, this will be my dream college. It will be special.
This college will train leaders. We don't have a name for it yet. But it's going to be a leadership college and it is going to train leaders. Principals for schools. Project managers who will be able to lead communities to build schools. Chaplains who will be spiritual leaders for teachers and students. And of course teachers. This will be a Christian college that will train a leaders with an entrepreneurial spirit committed to being used by God to transform lives and to transform society. Our graduates won't just be mere principals, they will be leaders committed to inspiring their teachers and their students and leading them to greatness. Our project managers won't just be overseers, they will be catalysts for change, people who will have the vision of inspiring individuals and communities to go beyond what they thought possible to successfuly complete projects. Those who study at this college won't be theologians -- oh they'll know theology, they'll know their Bibles, but we intend for them to graduate with a vision for sharing the Gospel with students and being spiritual leaders for them as they grow in their faith. And we will indeed train teachers. Teachers who will want to be leaders in their field, trying to find new and creative ways to make sure their students understand. I remember promising the Minister of Education in 2005 that ours would be the only college of its kind to be built in a village. That ours would be a uniquely Christian college. That ours would be a pre-eminently practical college with our students using our network of secondary schools as their laboratories to practice what they would learn in class. What I never told the Minister of Education was what I never knew until today. That our college would be the only college to be built by Festo, a young man who is among those known here in Tanzania as "the unchosen ones", a young man who when he finished the seventh grade was passed over, was told there was no room for him, was told that he wasn't good enough, that he wasn't among on the one or two kids from his village that year who were chosen to get to go on to secondary school. A young man who was born in a small village to a poor farmer and he was to never get any education beyond the seventh grade.
Today Festo stood in that lecture hall with his muddy boots on. One day two years from now it is very possible that he will indeed sit in that lecture hall as a student. And who knows, one day a decade from now he just might stand in that lecture hall, not as a student, but a professor, giving lectures to his students.
It was good of Godfrey to keep stringing me along for all of these months making me wait all of this time for my surprise.
Festo is one of the 73 of our graduates chosen by Godfrey and Emmanueli to participate in a special 4-month internship program they designed for our students while they wait for their national examination results. Many of them are teaching in our special Intensive English program throughout our 16 schools. Some of them are overseeing the building of new classrooms. A few of them, like Festo, have been chosen to work closely with Godfrey and Emmanueli in positions of leadership.