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A “Morning Star” That Shines For 25 Years

Mary Consoled Star of the Morning Secondary School in Ilamba celebrates Jubilee

Thursday, May 30, 2024, marked the 25-year jubilee commencement day of Mary Consolata Star of the Morning Secondary School in Ilamba, a tiny village located at exactly 2,000 meters in Kilolo district within Iringa province in Tanzania. In addition to about 210 students and the Consolata sisters from the Ilamba community, who were doing the honors along with the entire teaching staff and workers, there were the Consolata sisters from Iringa, various pastors and priests from the surrounding villages, and various guests including some former students employed today in a wide variety of trades. In all more than 250 people on a day that definitely had the stamp of celebration.

sr.cecilia and the first pupils

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The day’s program

It began with the history of the school told in the first person by Sister Cecilia. After the official mass, where the pastor called on all students to work hard to achieve “division 1” that is, the highest level of academic achievement, and introductions of all present, there followed some artistic numbers by the students, dances, songs, small plays, traditional dances… then lunch for all and finally the cutting of the cake and good wishes for the continuation of the school.

Description of the territory of Ilamba

The Ilamba area is very remote, with an almost all dirt road of 55 kilometers from the regional capital, the last 14 kilometers of which-from Kilolo, a small district capital-with many curves. Depending on the season it has large puddles or slippery muddy areas, or numerous potholes or sandy areas during the dry season. We are in the mountains, so getting there takes time … and it is in this area, of loggers, farmers and cattle breeders, that Sister Cecilia began teaching in April 1999 to a small group of children beginning with the first class.

the mass in the hall

Sister Zitha’s testimony

Sister Zita recounts in a writing from many years ago:

“Sisters from one of our communities who at the time were in the parish of Madege-which is about 15 to 20 kilometers beyond Ilamba, further into the mountains-had noticed that from the area no boys, let alone girls, who had finished elementary school were being chosen for secondary schools. The reason was that in that mountainous area the government schools were poor and with unmotivated teachers, and the young people also had no incentive to study at all. The sisters, and Sister Cecilia in particular, were trying to help these young people with after-school and supplementary classes during the vacations, and she had noticed that the reason for not being chosen was not due to their intelligence at all, and that if motivated they responded well! So they decided to bring a group of young people to Ilamba, near the Udzungwa Secondary School, which at the time was a private school that would take them in, and so Sister Cecilia with about 40 young people, with the permission of the superiors (with many doubts at the time) and the Bishop of the Diocese who helped them find land, began in August 1999 the construction of small houses with mud walls and thatched roofs that were the dormitories for the boys and girls.”

And the adventure began, simply, as it always does when a new mission begins! During these years so many sisters carried on the school and the center. To be especially remembered are our dearest Sister Zita and Sister Ida who are now watching us from heaven, Sister Maria Artura and many others.

School today

The school today

It is now a beautiful school with classrooms, a chemistry and physics lab, a computer room, a large library, a hall, administrative offices, and sports fields. In the area near the sisters’ house, on the other hand, there are the boys’ and girls’ dormitories, kitchen, dining hall, chapel, other classrooms for personal study. This has also been developed with a nice carpentry shop that serves various other schools in the area with desks desks and benches, a vegetable garden from which various vegetables are grown, a nice farm of chickens, rabbits, pigs, goats, and cows, and a tailor shop that produces uniforms each year for students from other schools as well. A farm where even the students some days during the year, contribute their labor. It is also a big little family where the students with the nuns, the teachers – who almost all live next door in cottages dedicated to them – and the workers in the various sectors, grow and educate themselves in a fraternal and serene atmosphere.

School Facade

Ilamba school, a reference point

Born out of a desire to bring knowledge-which is development-and education along with evangelization, to this remote and hard-to-reach place, the school now enjoys a good reputation and welcomes students from other districts and regions of Tanzania as well. The recent work on the road – also in progress these days if rather slow – to asphalt it, promises to make it easier safe and faster to reach Ilamba and surrounding areas, developing the activities of wood production (pine and eucalyptus), charcoal (from wood), fruits (especially pears and avocados) and livestock farming, and bring a little more prosperity to these villages where people live simply but also hard also because of the rather rainy and often harsh climate.

To the school in Ilamba, our best wishes that it can still be for many years – following Mary’s example – that light that helps, guides, grows, develops. For the sake of the children and Tanzania.

Stefano Matcovich – Tanzania

Images

  • Stefano Matcovich

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