Arusha, TanzaniaAurelia Jonas Katumbo
For 18 years, Aurelia worked at a commercial bank. She was let go at the age of 45 when the branch where she worked was closed, so 8 years ago, she decided to open a small school. Even when she was a banker, she had a passion for teaching. She knew she was well-equipped with knowledge. In her words, "Why should I stay idle with the education I have? My parents paid for my school and I should use that." Each year, she would build one new classroom as the school grew - slow and steady.
When she started working with Opportunity, she received loans to tackle larger construction projects like the second classroom block and the beautiful dining hall.
From her humble beginnings in 2007 with 9 students, the school has grown to a big school that employs 15 teachers and 12 support staff. They even have three school busses and a silo where they keep corn!
Despite her big complex, she cares so much more about the quality of education than the infrastructure. She says, "I don't mind much about the buildings. I mind about the quality of education."
One of Aurelia's favorite phrases is "old is gold." She has found that sometimes older teachers with more experience are much better suited to impart knowledge to her students. Her head teacher is in his 70s, and many of her teachers are older. All of them have been trained at teachers colleges. Because of the quality of education at Young Roses, Aurelia has a pile of applications - she says there are a LOT of university students looking for employment.
School fees are always a challenge for Young Roses. Parents struggle to pay a full lump sum at once, so Aurelia began to partner with Opportunity to offer school fee loans to the students' families. Even with that option, though, students often jump from school to school, leaving unpaid balances at each.
When Aurelia thinks about the future, her primary goal is to find a new space. There is no more room to grow at the current location, so they need more space. They will also need money for new school construction. Wisely, Aurelia knows that it is risky to build a school on a loan because you have no idea how many people will show up. And Aurelia is so proud that she regularly pays her loans. She says, "I've never missed a month. I don't want to disappoint myself, and I don't want to disappoint people who have supported me."
Someday, Aurelia would also like to open a secondary school, but she knows that this is a long-term goal.
She is also testing what boarding could look like for her school. She currently has six boarders, and she thinks this could be a good way to increase their income in the future. All of her students - boarders or not - receive tea and lunch at school.
Many of Aurelia's challenges are arising from governmental restrictions. The school, legally, is supposed to have five acres of land. Because it doesn't, Aurelia isn't sure what her future looks like. The fees she charges students are barely enough to cover the school's expenses, but she knows families can't afford anything higher. Because of her love of students, Aurelia is committed to figuring it out. But she knows it is going to require a lot of work!