Dear Head Teacher Fr. Simalalo:
I just wanted to say thank you for the help that has been given to me during my four years here at Loyola Jesuit Secondary School. You knew that my family could not afford the fees for me to be here, but you found some people who could help. Please tell those people thank you for me. I say thank you because without their help I would not be graduating now. May God bless them!
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During the final week before Form Four (Seniors) students finished examinations at Loyola Jesuit Secondary School (LJSS) and headed home, one of the recent graduates came into the office of Headteacher Fr. Ken Simalalo, S.J. He left a short note on Ken’s desk and then quickly headed out down the hallway. Ken called after him to return and give for an explanation. The young man simply said that he wanted the generous people who helped him enter and stay for four years at LJSS to know how thankful he was for their help. Whoever they were, they were in his thoughts and prayers of gratitude. That’s why he wrote that short note.
Fr. Ken suggested to him that, if willing, he talk to me since I knew some of those people who helped. So the young man — let’s call him John — came to my office and simply repeated his words of thanks. I learned that he was the last born of nine children and that none of his sisters and brothers had had a chance to go to secondary school. He came from a small village along the northern part of Lake Malawi and his family lived very simply with minimal incomes through fishing.
John was fairly bright and had managed to pass the national examination given to all Standard Eight (8thGrade) youth at the end of primary school education. Less than 30% pass that exam to qualify for secondary school — schools of vastly different quality. He was picked by the Government to go to Loyola Jesuit Secondary School — a new co-educational and all-boarding school in a poor rural area of Malawi.
When we began our school in 2015, we Jesuits decided that LJSS would be a “grant-aided” school where the Government sends and pays the teachers. That means that fees are less than $400/year and basically help cover room and board, some staff, and some extra educational supplies. This makes the school more accessible to youth like John who come from families of lesser means. (We like to think that Joseph and Mary could send Jesus to LJSS!)
But not all the students come from families that can afford even that rather low fee. Hence we set up a special fund called “Loyola Assistance Programme” (LAP) which could assist needy students with the fees and other expenses like uniforms and school supplies. LAP is made possible by donations — large and small — by persons in Malawi and around the world who appreciate the value of a good Jesuit education and want young girls and boys to attend Loyola and not be hindered by constraints of poverty.
At LJSS, we emphasise: “Don’t come here just to learn to make a living, but learn to make a difference!” I asked my new friend John what he wanted to do if he passed the national examination and had a chance for tertiary education. He said simply: “Study mathematics and become a teacher.” (I shuddered, since math was definitely the worst of my lessons!) That’s why he was eager to complete Loyola with good marks. And he was especially eager to let those who had helped him attend Loyola know his deep gratitude for their generous assistance!
Knowing that those donors ranged from the $10/month contributor to the once-off $1,000 contributor, I was very much touched by John’s story. He and I ended our brief conversation with a prayer for everyone who helps. May they know their help can change lives and change society. I was very glad that John left that note on Fr. Ken’s desk, and left that impression in my heart!
(To contribute to our LAP fund, go to the “donations” page on our website: www.loyola-malawi.org)
Pete Henriot, S.J.
Director of Development