CANTON  The Rev. Augustine R. Njuu now lives in Montana, but he remains deeply grateful for the time he served as a Mercy Medical Center chaplain.

It was here that Njuu received some of the first seed money and support for Star Academy, a school he founded in his native Tanzania that continues to thrive.

Njuu, who returned recently returned to the area to attend a wedding, wanted to give an update to local people who still support the co-ed school, which graduates its seventh class this fall.

"The Star Academy and I are extremely grateful for your assistance in bringing us this far in our pursuit (in) fulfilling our dream," he said.

Star Academy, located in Arusha, Tanzania, opened in 2007 with 140 students. More than 360 have graduated. Currently, 587 children are enrolled. In October, the academy will celebrate its 10th anniversary.

The 50-acre campus was built for $2.5 million and currently has eight classrooms, two offices, housing for eight teachers, and desks and beds for 120 students. 

The next phase will be completing construction of a new girls' dormitory, Njuu said.

Educational crisis

"Growth has exceeded our ability to house the students properly," he said, adding that the school's remote location makes commuting difficult for most students.

Dave and Martha Showers of Jackson Township were among the academy's first supporters.

"It is going well," Dave Showers said. "The number of students is almost 600 in a school which was built expecting a maximum enrollment of 250.  Each year they receive approximately 2,000 applications and have to turn down many qualified students. That’s sad. So many young people want a high school education and are denied a chance because of no space available anywhere in Tanzania."

Showers said he and his wife got involved after Njuu showed statistics stating that 250,000 young Tanzanians are unable to attend school because none are available.

"My wife and I decided to try to help in some way. We are still involved with Star Academy because they still need to grow the facilities to accommodate existing students and future students," he said.

In Africa, quality education continues to be at a premium. According to the most recently available statistics collected by UNESCO and the Brookings Institute, of the 144 million school-age children living in Sub-Saharan Africa, 37 million don't get an adequate education. 

Of those currently enrolled, only 10 percent will reach the university level. Another 17 million have never attended school.

"Planting shade trees"

The average yearly income in Tanzania is $280. Star Academy students' parents contribute money for maintenance but most can't afford tuition. The school operates its own farm and a grain mill.

The majority of Star Academy graduates, Njuu said, have gone on to pursue higher education either through universities or two-year "tertiary" schools that offer vocational training or will prepare them to enter a university. 

"My hope is to raise the education level in as many young people as possible so they can improve the quality of life for their families and for their country in general," Showers added. "My wife, Martha, and I consider this 'planting shade trees under which we will never sit.' Helping children is important to us. A friend of ours uses an expression, 'No man stands taller than when he stoops to help a child.'"

Njuu is hopeful the school will be self-sustaining within the next 10 years.

"Our profit is to see kids succeed," Njuu said.

To make a tax-deductible donation, checks may be sent to Star Academy Foundation, 9839 Strausser Street NW, Canal Fulton, OH, 44614.

Njuu may be contacted by email at kiria03@yahoo.com or by calling 330-412-8834. For more information contact David Showers by email at dshowers@sssnet.com

Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or charita.goshay@cantonrep.com

On Twitter: @cgoshayREP