After years of hard work and dedication, and the contributions from many generous supporters, HOPE completed the Ariang School building in 2011, the first of its kind in the village. Today, 500 students are able to learn inside classrooms rather than under trees. This is a tremendous accomplishment considering the poverty, conflict and instability that continue to plague the country. HOPE believes the completion of this building is just the beginning; and despite the challenges of operating in a post-conflict environment, HOPE is committed to advancing its mission and program services. The next priority is to improve the quality of education that it provides through investments in teacher training, learning materials, and adult education.
A Brief History
It started with commitment and determination of the Ariang community.
In the midst of civil war between North and South Sudan, the Ariang community saw the need for education for their children. Through community efforts, Ariang School was founded in the 1990s to provide basic elementary education to hundreds of children in Ariang and surrounding villages. However, Attacks by North Sudan Murahileen militiamen forced the school to close periodically in addition to harsh weather elements.
The school functioned in makeshift classes held under trees. The community compensated teachers through Food for Work collected from each family during the harvesting time. The teachers, though limited in education, felt an obligation to teach the children whatever little education they had. As one teacher, Garang Makeerthor, explains, “We were like a small child carrying a smaller child on our back.”
In 2007 when Gabriel Bol Deng first returned to his native village of Ariang after twenty years, he found this community school under the trees. Gabriel saw the challenges that the community faced in educating their children. Lack of trained teachers and instructional materials for students and staff were among these challenges. In addition, lack of clean drinking water on the school premise made it difficult for girls to attend school and caused many children suffer from cholera and other water related diseases. It was in 2007 that Gabriel first shared his dream with the community of building a primary school.
“I saw your learning conditions as well as your determination to get an education. I encouraged you to preserve under these extreme conditions in your school under trees and God willing we will be able to build a concrete school building with a roof someday.”
~ Gabriel Bol Deng speaking at Ariang School Assembly in June 2007
Upon returning to the United States, Gabriel began working tirelessly to raise funds to be able to fulfill this dream for the children of Ariang. Through many generous supporters and contributions, he was able to return to Ariang in 2009 to initiate the school’s construction. The first step was to drill six hand-pump wells, one of which was dug on the future school site. The wells drastically reduced the incidents of cholera and also enabled more girls to be attending school. The next step was to make the bricks, which would be used to build the school. In collaboration with Ariang community, the youth and women hand-made over 300,000 bricks.
Gabriel Bol Deng and Dr. Boyd break ground for Ariang school (2010)
Then finally in 2010, Gabriel broke the ground to begin the school’s construction, which was completed in December 2010. The school officially welcomed children in its classrooms for the first time in May 2011, equipped with desks and chairs.
The new school built by HOPE for Ariang Foundation will allow all children (K-8) to receive an education in their own village in safe classrooms, equipped with the essential tools for learning. Ariang School is now educating 500 children including 130 girls from Ariang and surrounding village. Thanks to the generosity and commitment of many friends and supporters in the United States and Europe.
A school is more than a building!
Now that the construction of Ariang School is complete, our real work has just begun. A quality education requires so much more than bricks and mortar or school building. Educational excellence is determined by the quality instruction, effective administration and availability of relevant instructional materials. Even with the beautiful facility in which the community of Ariang is so profoundly proud, many cultural and socio-economic barriers hamper our ability to ensure that each child receives a quality education in the new school.
With the generosity of many friends and supporters, we will strive to remove these cultural and socio-economic barriers to ensure that children of Ariang receive quality education in their brand new school building.
What are the remaining challenges?
Equipping Ariang School with Instructional Materials
One of our basic, initial tasks is to create an environment conducive to learning. We have furnished the school with desks and still need to acquire relevant instructional materials. Providing students with school uniforms will create pride and school identity. It will also eliminate cultural disparities and school dropouts.
Teacher Training and Instructional Support
Quality teaching is the backbone of the educational system. Without well-trained teachers, children cannot receive quality instruction. We will therefore utilize a multi-step approach to recruit and develop teachers with the necessary education and skills. Priority will be given to utilizing local teachers and those in the community with an education. We will provide guidance, mentorship and ongoing training to upgrade teachers’ English Language skill, subject content knowledge, and instructional skills.
We will work in partnership with the Government of South Sudan to develop and strengthen the existing National and State Curriculum into a comprehensive course of study, which incorporates cultural values of the village.
Lighting Ariang School with Solar Power
An exciting goal of the Foundation is the plan to independently generate electricity via abundantly available solar power. The children of Ariang have many sustenance responsibilities that help support the well being of their families. The boys tend cows after school and the girls tend to domestic chores. Though necessary for survival, these duties threaten their ability to attend school. The foundation hopes to provide a well lit environment, which will make it possible for girls and boys to do their homework in the evening without compromising their ability to accomplish their necessary duties at home. Availability of electricity will also make it possible for the school to offer adult education in the evening. Additionally, available electrical power will offer the potential to use educational technology in the future.
Fencing Ariang School Campus
Fencing the perimeter of the school campus will create a distinct learning sanctuary to increase effective administrative oversight of young students. In addition, the fence will provide a higher level of security and safety for the students and staff. It will also prevent cows, goats and sheep from damaging school property.
The HOPE for Ariang Foundation provided needed equipment (generator, brick molds, wheelbarrows, firewood) to the people of Ariang, enabling them to make bricks. The bricks were made through the mixing of sand, clay, cow dung, and water and simple wooden brick molds.
The process was then completed, by the building of a kiln to fire the bricks. This technique and composition of the bricks guarantee they are long lasting.The provision of equipment made it possible for the people of Ariang to make their own bricks for their highly awaited school.
The process involved many in the community, creating jobs and a sense of true ownership in the project. The people of Ariang have already made over 263,000 bricks we need to build the school. Without the support of the many contributors and donations in the past several years, the wells, bricks and hopes for the next generation of Sudan would not be possible. Happily, we are well on our way to the anticipated groundbreaking in Spring 2010!