The Republic of South Sudan gained independence from Sudan on 9 July 2011 as the outcome of a 2005 peace deal that ended Africa’s longest-running civil war. Formed from the 10 southern-most states of Sudan, South Sudan is a land of expansive grassland, swamps and tropical rain forest straddling both banks of the White Nile. The population is estimated to be between 7.5 and 9.7 million people. Source: Reuters
Ariang, South Sudan
Ariang is located in the state of Warrap, South Sudan, which has an area of 31,027 km. Kuajok is the capital of Warrap state.
HOPE for Ariang operates in a rural region of post-conflict South Sudan. The nation has been destroyed by twenty-two years of civil war with the North, which has resulted in the deaths of more than 2.5 million people and the displacement of more than six million. In addition, what little infrastructure existed prior to the conflict has since been decimated.
In 2005, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between South Sudan and North Sudan was signed and a 2011 referendum gave birth to the Republic of South Sudan. Unfortunately, conflict persists between both regions. Currently, people’s livelihoods and access to education are threatened by gender inequity, political instability, poverty, malnutrition, lack of access to health care and weak institutions. In addition to these nation-wide problems, rural villages like Ariang lack adequate roads and social facilities.
The State of Education in South Sudan
Although a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed between the government of Sudan and the Sudan’s People Liberation Movement (SPLM) on January 9, 2007, to end twenty-two years of civil war, South Sudan is still struggling. The instability of the country has taken its toll on the youth of Sudan. According to the World Bank, Sudan has the second lowest access to primary education in the world, ahead only of Afghanistan. Currently, only twenty five percent of children in Southern Sudan are enrolled in school, leaving 1.6 million uneducated. Also, less than 1 percent of girls complete primary school. Furthermore, a generation of South Sudanese adults was deprived of basic education in their youth.
The reasons for these staggering educational statistics are two-fold. First, since the start of the twenty-two year civil war, roughly 2.5 million people have been killed and six million have been displaced. As a result, nearly all facilities, in particular schools, have been destroyed or abandoned. The remaining school programs meet under trees and are typically hours away from a child’s home. Resources are severely limited, forcing children and teachers to depend on scraps of cardboard and sticks in the sand for writing utensils. Secondly, there is also a severe shortage of qualified teachers in South Sudan. Many of teachers have not had levels of education past primary school and only six percent of teachers have been formally trained in South Sudan.
HOPE for Ariang
Gabriel’s vision is not only to build a school for the village, but also to provide the children of Ariang with a quality education. Gabriel recognizes that education in the shadow of civil war requires a holistic approach. Therefore, Ariang School will be come a center for community development. It will provide stable, nutritious meals for the school children. As a part of the comprehensive curriculum, there will be a school nurse and health educator to teach and promote basic hygiene and sanitation in the school. All school children will receive vaccinations, and weekly recreational opportunities. Because of the prolonged war, a generation of South Sudanese adults were deprived of basic education in their youth. Therefore, adult education is also a fundamental component of HOPE for Ariang in its ongoing commitment to develop the village. Adults in the community will have the opportunity to attend classes in the evening and learn skills in tailoring, masonry and basic computer skills.
HOPE for Ariang Foundation has already dug new wells in the villages and on the school premise so that girls, who traditionally are responsible for collecting and carrying water, can now fill up their containers before they leave school for home.
The Ariang School will provide a positive and central focus for the entire village to rebuild its post-war lives. It can serve as a hub for community dialogue, as well as mobilization for addressing other social, economic and health issues. The school will serve as a foundation for long-term independence, which depends on education and skills for Sudanese citizens. Members of the Ariang community do not only need basic reading, writing, and computer skills, they also need to acquire broader understanding in order to create their own niche in the larger global community.
“There are NOT many educated people in Ariang village. But we feel compelled to offer the little education we have by teaching our children in order to lift up our village. What we, the teachers have been doing is like a parable in which a smaller child carries another smaller child on his back in a desperate attempt to rescue that child, but they all keep falling down. As a teacher, I need a good education to be able to effectively teach our children.”
~ Garang Makerthor, Teacher at Ariang School