Sakeji Anniversary Feedback

By Rebekah (Taylor) Opie, former pupil now living in Auckland, New Zealand

Here I was hundreds of miles around the world, without my husband, to visit a school I attended for two of my 24 years. What is it about this place that made such an impact on my life, and that of many others, that it would bring us back here to an isolated corner of a little-known country bordered on two sides by countries at war?

I was eleven when Sakeji entered my life, when my parents went as missionaries to the Democratic Republic of Congo, then known as Zaire. After celebrating Christmas with fellow Kiwi missionaries, I was introduced to boarding school life. Sakeji School was founded in 1925. Initially the pupils could be counted on one hand. The number had doubled by the time my grandmother and her brother started at the school in the thirties. During my era it boasted 120 pupils representing 17 different countries.

I packed an amazing kaleidoscope of memories into those two years at Sakeji. I became part of its unique traditions that only an ex-pupil can tell you about. Legends were formed from children’s imaginations and there are endless animal stories, from snakes in the swimming pool to the horror of a scorpion sting, all delightfully retold with embellishments for effect.

All this and more dominated conversations among ex-pupils over the four days of the celebrations. Over 400 guests flooded the small school during the week of celebrations, brought back by memories of a place that has a permanent niche in our lives. There were ex-pupils from almost every era of the school’s life, some like myself and my siblings, who were third generation students.

We were treated to a traditional end of term concert by the current pupils, held under the stars in front of the “big school”, and we enthusiastically joined in the national anthem and the school song, remembering words not sung for many years. We visited places that had been special treats during school years. We bumped over dirt roads waving to the children in villages we passed through on our way to “the Rapids” on the Zambezi and to the source of the Sakeji River. At one village we were pelted with nshindwa fruit by the children, and we recalled as we munched on it how the “big boys” had left some fermenting for weeks one term in an attempt to make beer!

On my last morning at Sakeji I went down to the play area at the river that borders the school. I lost all sense of time as memories flooded back of climbing trees, playing in the water and swimming in the pool. I managed to find my initials still clear deep in the bark of the “initial tree”, along with generations of ex-pupils. I reflected on the significance of Sakeji. We learned of God’s love for us through our teachers, and many started out on their Christian journey at this little school in the middle of nowhere. We have gone into all the corners of the globe and are involved in all sorts of ministries for the name of Christ. It is awesome to see the working of God in our lives. From the seeds that were planted, an array of beautiful flowers has grown.