Updated: May 21, 2021
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church…” Ephesians 3:20-21
It was only a month ago that the Zozu staff in both the US and in Uganda were daily praying for the future of Solid Rock’s first graduating class. The question on everyone’s mind was– what will these students take as their next step after finishing at Solid Rock? While we were thoroughly researching secondary schools, preparing them for final exams, and networking with like-minded organizations, we all were asking for clarity and wisdom from the only One who knows the future. And we are thrilled to announce that an answer has been given that is beyond what we could have asked for or imagined.
All of the 32 students who have graduated from Solid Rock Christian School this year will have the opportunity to attend a single boarding school in Uganda’s capital city, Kampala. The school whose administration has decided to accept them is Maranatha High School, located on the shores of Lake Victoria just south of the hub of Kampala. With an incoming class size of only 65, for Maranatha to set aside half of their seats is extremely generous! This partnership came about through old connections between Pastor John Paul, Zozu’s founder in Uganda, and the leadership of Maranatha. As Elaine told us with tears in her eyes when she read the news in her inbox, we all realized that this chance for the students is a miracle.
When the question of what will happen to the students after they graduate Solid Rock has been raised over the years, there have been many subsequent potential complications. Would the cost of sponsorship raise significantly? How would the Zozu Project staff be able to keep in touch with the students if they were spread across the country? Most importantly, how could the spiritual foundation and the love that is so central to being a student at Solid Rock be continued? The staff on both sides of the ocean never wanted to hand the students off to a good-enough school and call our work finished. After years of investing in them not just as students but as budding leaders, assurance that they would continue to be not just taught but loved was paramount. All of these questions needed answers.
Back in early 2018 we got to work researching options on the ground. Staff from both the US and Uganda visited secondary schools across the country, from secular public schools to private Christain schools, and from internationally supported schools to locally established schools. We looked at test scores, student life, costs of admission. We talked to current students, teachers, and administrators. And after all of that, here’s what Elsie, our communications director, had to say about Maranatha, the last school visited:
“Out of all the campuses we have visited, the students here are among the happiest and most energetic. Perhaps there’s something to the beautiful location right on the waterfront or the thrill of being in the city, but I think it’s the strong community of active faith here. We attended a chapel with the student body, and it seemed to me that the staff and student leaders were pursuing a family-like community. They don’t have the latest science lab technology or the most robust computer program, but the liveliness here is almost palpable. A family that encourages and supports each other– that’s what I saw.”
As a partner, Maranatha provides many practical blessings. The school is connected to a health clinic supported by the same umbrella NGO (Africa Renewal Ministries), so medical care is covered in the cost of tuition. Because of his connections, Pastor JP and the other Zozu staff can easily visit to keep up-to-date on how the children are doing. Perhaps one of the most significant perks is that the whole class of 32 will be together. Moving out of the village will be no small transition for them, but they will have each other. They are beyond excited. When we asked them two years ago if they would rather go to school in Arua and live at home, or go to a boarding school in Kampala, the answer was nearly unanimous– boarding school was what they wanted. They mentioned that they wanted time after school to do homework instead of the many home chores that come with living in poverty. They want to experience fully-stocked libraries, after-hours access to their teachers, and well-lit bedrooms with running water nearby. Having grown up in a mud-hut community where there is no two-story building for miles around and where many students who attend the local schools don’t graduate, they have over the last three years begun to hope for more. Leaving the rural slums that they have grown up in is an opportunity that these 32 children would only have been able to dream about three years ago.
However, the ultimate goal has always been to encourage the students not to abandon their home community, but to serve it. To that end, Zozu staff are already organizing parent visitation days where moms and dads from Arua can see their children in school. There will be term breaks where they will return to their families multiple times a year. And the Solid Rock staff whom the students already know and love are planning to visit “all the time.” We know that there are many additional questions in the months to come that need still to be answered, but the biggest question has been answered beyond our expectations. You have made amazing things possible in these students lives, and the fruit of your generosity and commitment to them is beginning to show. Stay tuned.