Monica Alual, a secondary school student in South Sudan's Lakes State, is leading the charge to educate her peers about early pregnancy and the importance of staying in school. Monica, who attends Rumbek National Senior Secondary School, was motivated by reading the Let's Talk booklet, a health awareness booklet she received as part of a scholarship package provided by GEE.
When GEE staff and local education officials visited Rumbek in October 2011, they discovered that Monica had been holding peer education sessions on the book with her classmates during lunch breaks. Monica, who dreams of becoming a lawyer, told GEE staff that early pregnancy is a major problem in her community and has led to high dropout rates in both primary and secondary schools. Since GEE's last visit to Rumbek, the pregnancy rate has decreased. In fact, during the fall 2011 term, there were no student pregnancies reported at Monica's school - a far cry from years past where approximately 10-15 girls would drop out each term.
GEE scholars are typically receptive to the health education messages contained in the Let's Talk booklet and often convene community learning sessions to spread the word to girls and mothers in their villages. Monica was extremely proactive, though, and it's evident that her efforts are having a significant impact.
Since our last update, a number of others like Monica have benefited from participation in the GEE program. Between April and June of this year, GEE delivered financial and material incentives to 252 students in secondary schools and teacher training institutes, served 4,331 students through improvement grants at their schools, and conducted leadership training for 67 state and county education officials.
GEE's activities have now come to an end, but the achievements of its beneficiaries are truly remarkable. Over the course of program, which began in late 2007, GEE has worked with local schools and education officials to deliver more than 9,500 scholarship packages -including over 8,000 to women and girls - and 20,000 learning materials throughout all ten states of South Sudan. Meanwhile, the capacity of local education stakeholders has improved significantly, with a number of South Sudanese education officials developing individual and state-level action plans as part of regional leadership trainings, and others delivering GEE-inspired mentoring workshops for secondary school teachers. Despite the formal end of its activities, GEE expects that South Sudan's education system will continue to improve through the dedicated efforts of stakeholders at all levels, from students, parents, and community members, to teachers and the South Sudanese government itself. Indeed, a South Sudanese state education official recently remarked: "Mentoring activities introduced in secondary schools in Jonglei State have improved the discipline of students, improved attendance in class, and made students knowledgeable about their body changes. This is a long-term investment in the secondary school system. We in the Ministry of Education will continue with this activity even after Winrock/GEE."
“My dream of being a lawyer is coming true,” said Esther Abono Sisto, a former GEE-supported scholar currently working as an intern in the program’s Juba, South Sudan office. Esther is one of two members of GEE’s recently-developed scholar-intern program, which gives exceptional GEE graduates a chance to get work experience and earn money between completing secondary school and their next endeavor. Esther is preparing to study law at the university. She attended an Arabic pattern secondary school so this internship is giving her a chance to improve her English and earn tuition money.
Rakela Joseph has also benefited from an internship with GEE. Rakela works in the program’s Wau office, assisting with filing, paperwork and workshop planning, while also chipping in as an Arabic-English interpreter for program activities. She hopes to purchase a computer to set up an office to help train future GEE graduates in secretarial skills. She will also use her earnings to help pay school fees for her sisters who have dropped out of school due to financial limitations.
In addition to piloting the scholar-intern program, GEE has had a number of other important achievements since the beginning of 2012. Between January and March of this year, the program benefited some 670 students though improvement grants at their schools; delivered financial and material incentives to over 185 secondary school and teacher training institute students; and conducted leadership training for 42 South Sudanese education officials, while also helping to facilitate a locally-organized and GEE-inspired follow-on training for 17 additional officials.
GEE is primed to build upon its successes in the coming months, as it continues to strengthen local capacity with the aim of promoting sustainable impact.
The past few months have been a busy time for the GEE program, with a number of scholarship, mentoring, and institutional support activities conducted throughout South Sudan. Since October 2011, GEE has provided financial and material incentives to over 30 secondary school students; delivered more than 2,500 learning materials to students, including information on puberty, health and HIV/AIDS; conducted leadership training for South Sudanese education officials; facilitated a National Gender Awareness Raising Workshop that generated state-level action plans and policy recommendations; and supported the South Sudanese government in the training of mentors for secondary school students.
Among the scholars that GEE helped is 22-year old Rebecca Abul Majak. Rebecca struggled with ostracization by local community members because of her disability. With the support of GEE, which provided her with financial incentives and sanitary pads and other hygiene items, Rebecca fought through, completing secondary school and enrolling in university at South Sudan’s Jonglei State. Now a primary school teacher, Rebecca is appreciative of GEE’s assistance.
“GEE really helped me by providing me with pads and paid part of my school fees in 2009 and 2011,” Rebecca said. “If this project can continue in Jonglei State, it will make a great impact in the future. My state has great illiteracy in South Sudan, especially among women. And the project has helped in promoting girls’ education in my school.”
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