The Bethsaida Orphan Girls Secondary School was established in January 2005 by a Tanzanian non-governmental organization, the Olof Palme Orphans Education Centre (OPOEC). It is the only all-orphaned girls boarding secondary school in Tanzania devoted strictly for educating and caring for orphans.
The name of the organization was given in honor of the former Swedish prime minister. Mr. Olof Palme who provided African schools with food after a serious drought in the early 1970s. Despite the name, there has never been a connection between OPOEC and the government of Sweden.
The NGO (OPOEC) and the Bethsaida Orphan Girls Secondary School were founded by a group of Tanzanian women who joined together to donate funds to begin the first construction of Bethsaida, creating a place for young people where they would be provided with education and care. Their Chairwoman was Anna Machary, a Dar es Salaam native who unfortunately passed away in April 2005. In accordance with Anna Machary’s vision, Bethsaida and OPOEC are dedicated to providing free housing, meals, psychological support, and a quality secondary and vocational education to orphaned Tanzanian girls of any religious background. In determining eligibility, OPOEC uses the same definition for orphans as the Tanzanian government— namely, a child who has lost either one or both of her biological parents due to natural causes. Bethsaida, however, makes special efforts to recruit girls who are “double” orphans, those without either parent still living and academic excellent.
The total orphan population in Tanzania is staggering. In the district of Makete, public health officials have estimated that 20 percent of the population, or 40 percent of the area’s children, are orphans. Furthermore, in Tanzania, as in all of East Africa, children are frequently orphaned due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Current estimates place the number of AIDS orphans in Tanzania between 660,000 and 1.4 million, or approximately 40 percent of Tanzania’s total orphan population, although exact numbers are hard to calculate as the AIDS stigma is still quite profound in Tanzania. It is figures such as these that inspired Anna Machary to establish OPOEC and Bethsaida.
Bethsaida forms an integral link in the chain of protecting and educating Tanzanian orphans. All across the country, international NGOs, FBOs (Faith-Based Organizations), and individual donors have been sponsoring orphanages and community interventions for orphaned children. Once these children reach adolescence, however much of this support evaporates. By reaching out to the secondary-school age demographic, Bethsaida hopes to intervene and save some of the most vulnerable of Tanzania’s children, adolescent female AIDS orphans, from lives of extreme poverty and deprivation.
In fulfilling this aim, Bethsaida is dependent on charitable donations from local individuals, churches, and organizations. It has no permanent funding or partnerships. And supplies, be they books, food, clothing teachers, or physical infrastructure, are often scarce. If you are interested in helping Bethsaida in any capacity, please click here.
The school is not-for-profit.