Dec 26, 2018

Project Education South Sudan Update Jan 1, 2019


Change is coming. It’s slow, but like water spilling over a dam, change will have its way. Currently only one girl in a hundred finishes high school in South Sudan. However, with encouragement and a modest scholarship, girl by girl, they are completing 12th grade, graduating and passing their required national exams. Now 90% of those entering the Project Education South Sudan (“PESS”) scholarship program are completing high school. Why the dramatic change?

In South Sudan, the educational system, and the expectations of students – especially girl students – are different than in the US. In South Sudan, with a brand-new economy and government (the country is only 7 years old), the public schools do not deliver. Teachers are not only underpaid, but often not paid at all; the teachers then do not show up at school, and students don’t know whether to come or not. Girls are not expected to finish school. With a dowry system that is hundreds, if not thousands, of years old, the value of a young girl to her family is in learning to do household chores, taking care of younger siblings, and preparing for a marriage that will bring a much-needed financial bonus to the family (often paid in the form of cows). As financial times become more desperate, families often push for earlier receipt of this financial bonus, which translates into younger marriages for girls, and you guessed it, the end of formal education. Girls drop out of school to marry and begin families of their own. Our solution: offer scholarships to help girls go to private high schools, then provide tutoring, and support programs so girls can encourage each other to succeed.

As girls begin to taste the joy of learning, and as they understand the potential to change their world, they begin to dream. In addition to becoming moms and wives, it dawns on them that they can become lawyers, doctors, accountants, pilots, and political leaders. They talk to their friends. They share their ideas. Their new view of themselves becomes a contagion. The pent-up energy of water filling the reservoir spills over the dam. They are unstoppable.

Listen to things the girls say in recent student essays, responding to this question: How will local and national governments improve with more representation of women and other underrepresented peoples?

Aluel (shown in the photo): “I do believe more representation of women will… help stop violence against women, encourage girls, increase child education, create more positions for women in national and local government, and give women a voice to talk in public and equally share power in governance. More educated women will help in community development.” 

Akuek: “…girls now have been part of quality education and are taking their careers seriously and hoping to get well paid jobs like being lawyers, doctors and many more.” 

Deborah: “All human beings have rights and I believe women have rights to own things and to voice their opinion like men. They have the right to talk in public concerning community needs.” 

Awel: “We need equality, and when boys and girls are considered equal, I’m hoping together, we can bring better and productive development into our young nation of South Sudan. I think our leaders whether at the community or at the state level should represent women and become a voice of voiceless women in our societies across South Sudan.” 

Nyanroor: “In most cases in South Sudan women are not well represented either at the community or national level… If we have a female leader [in our state of Jonglei] she will treat women and other underrepresented people well and therefore equality will be there for all.” 

Sep 26, 2018

Project Education South Sudan Update Oct 1, 2018

The story of Abuk demonstrates the fact that when girls are given opportunity, they succeed! Abuk graduated from high school 3 years ago, supported by a scholarship from Project Education South Sudan. She wanted to become a nurse.  Abuk began her studies in the Juba College of Nursing and Midwifery. Because she had focused on the sciences in high school and had been a diligent student, Abuk was admitted into a program funded by countries interested in South Sudan’s educational development. She expects to complete her program and become a fully accredited nurse in 2020. 

The co-founder of PESS, Carol Rinehart, recently interviewed Abuk to learn more about what had contributed to her success. “Being determined and hardworking has been my principle." A proverb says, “Commit your work to the Lord and your thoughts will be established.”  That proverb has been my guiding principle…” reported Abuk. She also credits encouragement of others. In addition to having a family who supports her studies, Abuk says that “PESS gave me a lot of encouragement… and PESS founder Mama Carol has been in touch with me throughout my studies…” At PESS, we have witnessed the power of encouragement. In a country where only 1% of girls complete high school, students who receive the financial support and encouragement of PESS have been graduating at about a 90% rate. 

We expect that Abuk’s story will become a powerful example of success for other girls in the PESS scholarship program. Abuk counsels younger students, “My advice to young girls as they pursue their studies is commitment. I know it is very hard to overcome some challenges… but they should try, by all means, to achieve their educational goals first.” One of last year’s graduates from high school, also a PESS scholar, is now in Kampala, Uganda, pursuing university studies in medicine. You’ve heard us talk about her before – Anna. Anna worked in the PESS office for a year and is now pursuing her dream of becoming a doctor. Apparently she is taking Abuk’s advice. 

The support that many of you have been offering to PESS is now creating change in South Sudan, as young women are coming to see their potential, and beginning to take advantage of the opportunity provided by the encouragement and financial support. We thank you deeply for your support. You are helping us to “Change a nation”. Listen to the hope that this support is offering. Abuk concludes her interview with her vision for the future: “My hope about my beloved country is that no matter how the situation is now, where people are trying to settle different ideologies, there will be a time when my country will be resolved. Where everyone will have freedom of expression, freedom of movement, free basic primary and secondary education for every child, men and women will be treated according to their character; not according to their gender, unity among people and where justice will be revealed in every act.”

Jul 3, 2018

Project Education South Sudan Update July 1, 2018

Sunlight Primary School in Bor inundated by floods
Sunlight Primary School in Bor inundated by floods

Heavy rains arrived early this year – and this time the rains brought devastation to communities where PESS works. There is usually plenty of rain to grow crops in this part of South Sudan, but too much of a good thing sets communities back. 

Massive rains in late May and early June left many neighborhoods underwater and numerous families with no place to cook meals or sleep. Homes that are pretty simple to begin with became unusable, making many owners functionally homeless. Businesses and schools in the Bor area were inundated. PESS currently supports high school-aged girls in 9 different schools in the town of Bor, and some of these had classrooms that were unable to accommodate students in their studies. 

What do people in Bor do when they encounter a disaster like this? The flooding brings the whole family together. Family members from 6 to 96 pitch in to build a dike around their home, using mud from their yards. Then the family takes turns scooping water out with kitchen pans and throwing it over the dikes to reduce the water in the house – not the efficiency of an electric pump, but locals use what they have. 

Sunlight Primary School in Bor was one of the schools overrun by rising water. Four of nine classrooms became unusable. After the community came together to clean out the flooded, mud strewn classrooms, more rain fell and another 3 classrooms were again flooded. All of the outdoor latrines used by the 290 students collapsed, no longer usable. Now that classes have resumed, all students must use the teacher and staff latrine, the only one remaining. The community is coming together (parents and neighbors) to help the school regain its footing. They are planning to build new latrines and to construct levies around the classroom buildings to better protect them against future flooding. 

Sunlight Primary is important to PESS. It is one of the schools from which PESS draws high school applicants for our scholarship program. Daniel Gai, who operates the school, hires graduates of our scholarship program to be teachers. This is important because teaching is seen as more of a “man’s job” in South Sudan. When a young woman graduates from high school and lands a teaching job, it’s a big deal. In a country where only 1% of girls graduate from high school, PESS is having astonishing success in helping young girls stay in school and graduate. The problem now is that these young enthusiastic graduates are looking for work or looking to go on to university, hoping to become a doctors, lawyers or community service workers. PESS is putting its energy into finding outlets for the energy, creativity, and ambition of the young girls in our program. Sunlight Primary is providing one such opportunity. 

Once again, we are so grateful to all of you for helping us to help young girls in South Sudan get an education so they can take their place in the community. All additional assistance from our American friends will help us keep girls in school, and also to assist the Bor community with challenges like flooding during rainy season. Thank you for your help!

Students  in a classroom affected by water and mud
Students in a classroom affected by water and mud
Collapsed latrine that will need to be rebuilt
Collapsed latrine that will need to be rebuilt
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