Education in Rumbek

Challenges and solutions

Mary’s Meals projects

Diocese of Rumbek has enjoyed a long – term partnership with the Scottish charity Mary’s Meals. In 2022 Mary’s Meals will provide food to 72,000 children attending our diocesan schools. Knowing that their children will receive one good meal a day is an incentive for parents to send their children to school, rather than keeping them at home to assist with domestic chores or guard the family’s livestock.

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The challenge of the girl child

Girls are the most disadvantaged members of society in South Sudan. Child marriage denies them education, gender division of labour leads to low enrolment of girls in schools, poverty causes parents to marry their daughters in exchange for dowry and the cost of uniforms and books prompts families to choose to educate their male children rather than their female ones. The large distances that children must cover in getting to school also causes problems for girls, who can be raped or kidnapped enroute. Lack of sanitary towels also prevents their attending school, as does the lack of segregated lavatories. To combat these ills our programme provides for the provision of re-usable sanitary pads, female lavatories, training in civil rights, provision of subsidized school fees or girl-child scholarships. We also offer life-skills such as tailoring, gardening, agriculture and nutrition alongside community-building initiatives such as girls’ sports teams, dance groups and musical groups.

Quite apart from the challenges presented by civil strife, drought, famine, floods and displacement, we face a number of specific challenges as follows:

Lack of teacher training

Less than 35% of the teachers in our region are trained; most are only educated to primary level. The few teachers that are trained are regularly head-hunted by rival institutions so the turnover of staff is high, continuity of education low. We have therefore established our own Mazzolari Teacher Training Institute which offers educational courses in languages, maths, science, social studies and health to trainee teachers.

Poor educational buildings

The majority of our schools are either mud-brick and thatch or simple patches of shade beneath a tree. The former requires constant renovation, the latter calls for new schools to be built.

Lack of community involvement

As a result of war and poverty, the region has come to undervalue education. It is also difficult for poor families to afford the uniforms and books required. For this reason, we have established a broad range of Parent Teacher Associations which work to create: a sense of ownership of the educational programmes, cooperatives to raise funds for building projects, committees to orchestrate repairs and upgrading of schools and Accelerated Learning Programmes for those adults who never went to school.

The cost to the community of education

Amongst rural communities where poverty is endemic the cost of education is prohibitive. Additionally, many children are viewed as a source of manpower in terms of cattle herding or domestic labour. The long distances they must walk to get to school – often many kilometers over dangerous territory, also causes problems. A major incentive to attend school lies in the provision of a daily nutritional meal for each child that attends school, which we accomplish in partnership with Mary’s Meals, a Scottish charity.

Lack of educational materials

Items such as desks, writing materials and books are not widely available in South Sudan. All must be transported from Kenya alongside such items as: chalk, blackboards, uniforms, sports equipment, computer equipment and many other essentials.

Lack of sanitation

Access to clean water is a major challenge in the region. It also affects education since children are tasked with fetching the household water from taps that might be 3kms distant. This results in children losing up to 10 weeks of learning because they are looking for water. We have therefore installed numerous boreholes with handpumps in our schools. There is also a critical lack of sanitation. Consequently, our programmes allow for the building of numerous ventilated latrine blocks.

Lack of provision of higher learning opportunities

In order that the youth of the diocese may have access to higher learning we have established the Catholic University of South Sudan Rumbek Campus, which is allied to the Catholic University in Juba. The academic programmes include: Business Administration, Education, Accounting and Computer Science.

Lack of hope for youth

In a war-ravaged society it is imperative to foster hope amongst the youth of the community and to this end we provide an extensive range of tertiary education designed to lead to concrete employment opportunities. Thus, we train students in solar energy, electricity, sanitation, masonry, carpentry, borehole drilling, tailoring, baking, cooking, hairdressing and agriculture.