When I was a teacher in the Peace Corps in the late 90s, I had a student who was one of my hardest workers, although he usually had pretty average grades. He was not a stand out student in the typical sense (I had plenty who earned better grades than he did), but he was nearly always in my office (a mud brick room that also served as the school library) after class seeking clarification, and came to every evening study hall that I organized. After I returned to the US, he stayed in contact with me, and told me that he was pursuing the next level of high school (high school there is a six year program – I taught the first four years). He would take time off and earn money to pay school fees, and then carry on with another semester. After that level of school, he went on to a school sort of like a junior college, and is now in his second year of university studies. This is extremely rare in that part of the world, and I’m ever so proud of his efforts. Over the last several years, my parents have been funding a portion of his school fees and tuition. He generally comes up with a chunk of it on his own by working during school breaks, and then my parents kick in the rest. As he’s progressed in school, the tuition and fees have gone up, although it’s still much less expensive than a degree in the US would cost (his total expenses for this year are about $1600, including room and board, books, fees, and tuition). He was able to pay about half of it himself. My parents are paying $600, and my husband and I are contributing $200. This is the first time we’ve given him money ourselves – usually we just pay the Western Union wire fees to send the money my parents give him.
$200 is still a lot of money to us. But we’re inspired by my parents’ desire to see this young man through his education (they are not wealthy – just generous). And giving someone an education is a gift that keeps on giving. In this student’s case, his tenacity has paid off – very few of his peers even went on to the next level of high school, much less university.
If we didn’t send money to help pay his tuition, we could go out to dinner every week this month. Or buy a bunch of new clothes at the thrift store by our house. Or splurge on really fancy food the natural grocery store opening in our neighborhood next month. But we don’t need to go out to dinner (we prefer our own cooking anyway). And the clothes we already have are just fine. And the new store will have lots of bulk rice and beans, which is fine with us. I’m struck by the reality that most of us in America have far more in the way of material goods than we actually need. And while $200 is a lot of money for us (as is $600 for my parents), it’s a fortune to a student in Tanzania. So I will happily include the money from us when I wire my parents’ money next week. If we have to tighten our budget to do so, that’s ok.