Shepherds Junior does not employ the sponsorship model of providing direct tuition assistance from a single donor to a single child, because we believe this model too often results in unintended negative consequences.
- Sponsorship Discontinuance: Due to circumstances beyond their control, sponsors may need to discontinue their sponsorship temporarily or permanently. In these instances, either the school must absorb significant unanticipated costs, or the student must sadly be dismissed.
- Inappropriate Sponsorship Candidates: Without a deep understanding of our local community and family economic situation, sponsors may identify and fund students for whom they have a deep personal fondness without realizing that their families, in fact, have the means to pay our reasonable standard fees send their children to school. By sponsoring students whose parents might otherwise pay for their education, sponsors can create a situation where paying parents, who are absorbing the lion’s share of our school’s maintenance costs, feel they are unfairly being charged for a service which others of similar financial circumstances are receiving for free. We have established a fair criteria for selecting scholarship students that is administered by qualified by local educational professionals, and a Board of local leaders, who understand their community well.
- Social Impacts: Often, sponsored children may feel either privileged (if their sponsors are particularly generous), or disparaged, if they and their peers understand that they’ve been sponsored due to their family’s socio-economic situation. In addition, for children who may have parents who cannot afford their education, the sponsorship relationship may jeopardize parental autonomy and/or supplant or injure the respectful relationship children should have for their parents, even if they may not have the means to provide for their education. Even the authority and autonomy of local teachers, parents and leaders may be compromised if a student is aware that their sponsor is providing for them financially. None of these outcomes are optimal for the children in our community.
- Inhibition of Self-Sufficiency: A sponsorship model in which the child and his or her peers are aware of a sponsorship relationship may perpetuate an unhealthy sense, too widespread in our culture, that Africans must depend on the donations and charity of foreigners for our survival and basic necessities. While the friendship that may grow between a sponsor and a student is often loving, kind and generous, these relationships also frequently create life-long dependencies that inhibit a child’s sense of independence and self-sufficiency.
- Focus on Weakness: Finally, often to market sponsorship programs, organizations compose stories that focus on what a child’s weaknesses, and what he or she may lack instead of his or her strengths and gifts. As our students have access to the internet, they may easily find and read stories that have been written about themselves and one another for the purposes of marketing. Unfortunately the stories that we use to define these children too often become the internal narratives that define their mindset and approach to life. We prefer that each student focuses on their strengths, talents and gifts and we refuse to perpetuate stories about all that they do not have. While it is true that our country, and most of its people are materially poor, this story has been well-told and we believe is well understood the world over. The story that is not often told, and which will we always tell about the children of Shepherds Junior, is that of our remarkable potential. We hope you will invest not because you perceive our children as weak, but instead because you realize just how powerful they can be if provided access to a great education.
For these reasons and more, we request that your contributions not be demarcated for a particular student, but instead be invested in our scholarship & capital project fund. For clarity, by donating to support our capital expansion, you help us to direct our tuition income to add additional children to our student body who cannot afford our fees. Additionally, with expanded facilities, the incremental cost of adding additional children to our classrooms is minimized. In essence, by contributing to capital improvements, you enable us to direct a greater portion of our tuition income toward scholarships for new orphan and low-income students. Your donations provide precisely the same benefit as sponsorships to our school, but are not earmarked for a particular student, thereby avoiding the potential challenges of the sponsorship relationship.
Of course, we encourage you to interact freely with all of our students online and on campus. We simply prefer that you do not earmark funding for any particular student for the reasons outlined in our student sponsorship policy.
By contributing in this empowering way, you can help us to cultivate a strong, self-sufficient student body and community. Thanks so much for your interest in Shepherds Junior School!!