Sixteen year olds at school for the first time! Sounds incredible but it’s true. This is the second year of our new school in Riwoto, South Sudan, and 70 new students have enrolled but not all are infants. A class has been set up for twelve to sixteen year olds from the surrounding villages coming to school for the first time. The civil war kept some away from school but their parents value education and so the teenagers arrived for the first term in February. In South Sudan the school year follows the academic year. One of the sisters teaches this class. She is a very artistic and creative and surely she will have the chance to use all her creativity!
The parish in Riwoto is named St Mary Magdalen’s and so the school is also St Mary Magdalen’s school. For the month of January two local men began their teacher training at the teachers’ college run by Solidarity with South Sudan (SSS) which is a group of religious congregations working together in some of the principal centres of South Sudan such as Wau, Yambio Malakal. SSS subsidises the tuition and Holy Faith pays for the travel from Riwoto to Yambio. The trainee teachers do their teaching practice in St Mary Magdalen’s and it is a wonderful step forward to have South Sudanese people training as teachers. The other lay teachers are from Kenya. They live in the compound and so are away from their families in Kenya for the school term.
The principal, Sr Margo, reports that the parents’ council decided to erect a flag pole to fly the flag of South Sudan SS for the singing of the National anthem to order to cultivate a spirit of national unity as an alternative to tribal conflict.
Since last year, the school food store has been extended – an important undertaking because an extensive food program is operated for the students. The wonderful generosity of an anonymous donor in Dublin ensured the food supplies for much of last year. A house for school watchman has been erected allowing the school use of “old” room for PE equipment. A new classroom block of three rooms has been completed.
Much effort is put into encouraging parents to send girls to school The UK Government gives 60 million sterling for GESS; girls’ education South Sudan. This program gives grants to schools with enrolments of girls to improve the educational environment, and gives scholarships to enable parents to keep girls at school. This is important because girls do a lot of the work at home. This year St Mary Magdalen’s hopes to get a grant of about 8,000 South Sudanese pounds which is just over 1000 euro.
We were very fortunate to receive a grant from the Retired Irish Civil Servants for solar energy installations to power computers in the school. Their generosity and that of our donors helps us to provide an education for the students which will help them grow as individuals and help them to help their nation grow and prosper.