September 2018, was marked a special month for the #Girlchild in Ariang School. Two HOPE for Ariang team members, Elizabeth Deng and Josephine Lukas visited the school with the aim of highlighting and addressing some of the challenges eighth-grade girls face during menstruation.
The visit shed light about HOPE for Ariang’s commitment to improving girls’ education and school attendance through the Women and Girls Empowerment Program. To create a lasting solution, the program also focused on empowering all the women in Ariang and surrounding Villages.
In collaboration with Ariang’s female teacher Maria Adyior, the program started with interviewing the girls to find out how they cope up with menstruation in the absence of sanitary towels.12 out of the 23 eighth grade girls were interviewed. Only a few girls had knowledge about menstruation health management. Out of the 12 girls we interviewed, only one girl knew about sanitary pads and had underwears. All the others had very little knowledge about menstrual hygiene and management. All the girls opted to skip school during their periods. They preferred to stay at home for fear of stigma from their fellow schoolmates.
The interview demonstrated a combination of factors leading to increased absenteeism for girls, poor school performance and increased early marriages. We had some girls who said that:
“I don’t go to school for almost six days”
”…during menstruation, I wear many skirts”
“I feel uncomfortable to ask our male teachers about menstruation problems, and so I feel better to stay back at home where am a bit comfortable for all those days”
Some girls said in most cases they can’t concentrate in class. They always think about sudden menstruation leakage and what others will say about them.
“… During menstruating days, our attentiveness to lessons is always interrupted by the thinking of unplanned leakage and staining of our clothes. Which is so shameful. We don’t concentrate. Most of the time our attention is on menstruation and the embarrassment that comes with it.”
We trained 23 eighth grade girls and 6 community women from the Ariang Village. Teacher Maria Adyior led the training after receiving one-on-one training and coaching from the HOPE for Ariang team. She provided an overview of what is menstruation, menstruation management and challenges experienced during menstruation period. She also advised and guided them on how to stay clean and healthy while on their period.
At the end of the training session, the women and girls were given a reusable sanitary kit which included three underwears, four reusable sanitary pads, a bucket and a soap. By using reusable pads, girls will be able to safely, comfortably and consistently manage their periods without worrying about embarrassment and shame.
The HFA Women and Girls Empowerment program addresses challenges which prevent girls in Ariang to continue with their education and live a healthy life in the community through a very comprehensive approach:
Our target is to empower all girls at Ariang school to happily attend school daily, concentrate in class and reach their potentials. If you would like to donate to our Women and Girls Empowerment Program, you can make a donation here. Simple, write “Ariang Girl” in the comment box. Help us to ensure that all girls can go to school, attend classes, and complete their education without any barriers so that they can reach their full potential and be the change in the community. We want to make our girls shine.
A quality primary education is essential but not enough in this evolving world. We envision a world where every child can access higher education to be able to reach his or her full potential in life; breaking the cycle of poverty in Ariang. Since 2011, we have an average of 45 students sit annually for the National Primary Examination at the completion of eighth grade, with an increasing passing rate each year. After finishing at Ariang, the future is unclear for many students due to many obstacles in their way.
This prevents our graduates from joining senior schools. Unlike universal primary school, secondary schools are not free in South Sudan. Many families cannot afford to send their children, especially girls, to high school. Those who manage to join, drop out of school during their second or third year mainly due to lack of financial support. Other contributing factors show more... show less
Girls face even more obstacles compared to boys. Some parents see a 12-year-old girl as property and long to marry her off to get cows as dowry. It is believed that a girl is highly priced when she is between 12 and 18 years. This is school-going age and in South Sudan, a 12-year old is likely in 4th up to 6th grade. Once a girl marries, she is much less likely to continue her show more... show less
The community of Ariang is recovering from decades of war. Most of the older generation did not get an education. Therefore, a very small percentage are eligible for skilled jobs. The majority of people in the community engage in farming and animal rearing. The methods of farming are still very traditional and the reap is usually barely enough to sustain their families for 6 months. show more... show less
Without a secondary school in any nearby communities, it is uncertain if students will manage to continue their education. Students are forced to commute long distances to get to school. The schools are usually congested and lack academically qualified teachers and teaching equipment. Teacher-student ratio is another factor that affects the few available secondary schools. show more... show less
We have stepped in to help more students, with a focus on girls. Students with promising potential now have the opportunity for a secondary school sponsorship. A rigorous application process ensures that we select students who are committed to their continued education. We partner closely with the scholars’ families, to ensure greater support and commitment.
There are 3 types of scholarship options we offer in the Scholar’s Empowerment Program; affordable private schools with boarding for our girls, private day schools, and local day schools. The school fees range between $200 – $400 annually.
You can make a direct impact on the life of one student by becoming a monthly sponsor or a one-time annual donor. There are 3 sponsorship levels by which you can help a student finish high school and set them up on a path towards future success:
An Ariang Advocate provides one student with:
Since closest secondary school is Akon, a three-hour walking distance from Ariang, students usually find accommodations with relatives during weekdays. Your sponsorship ensures that he or she is provided with meals in the evening.
An Araing Ambassador provides one student with:
A private secondary school often offers better quality education with more qualified teachers and better resources and facilities. Sponsored students at the Ambassador level are accepted to private schools in Akon and Kuajok.
An Ariang Champion for Girls enables a girl to:
Becoming a Champion for Girls will save a girl from early marriage and help her to reach her full potential!
Make a difference in someone’s life by giving them a lifetime gift of education. Meet some of our students that your sponsorship will support! Be sure to check back soon as we accept more students in the Scholars Empowerment Program.
Monica Awut is 17 years old. She graduated from Ariang School in 2017 and joined Akon Secondary School in 2018. She was the second best performing student in the zone.
Her brother paid her school fees this year, but his continued support is not possible. Monica says that she would be at home helping her mother with cultivation if she was not in school.
Luil comes from a town that borders Sudan and South Sudan; a region that experiences frequent tribal clashes which succeeded the prolonged period of civil wars. The wars have left this area without a school so he joined Ariang School when he was in Grade 2. After graduating, we helped him join Akon Modern secondary by buying him a uniform and paying his senior one fees. However, Luil has faced lots of obstacles since his family is unable to raise fees for the remaining years.
Mary Abuk is 17 years old and a last born in a family of four. She is sitting for her primary school national exams this year. She is passionate about education and performs very well in class. Mary decided to put marriage life aside, despite pressures, to concentrate on her studies first. She hopes to bring a positive impact to her community-especially women and girls. Due to her family’s financial challenges, she is unsure if she will be able to enroll in a high school.
If you would like to clear a student’s full-year school fees once, this is your space.
The fees are:
Note: You can donate a smaller amount of as low as $5. Feel free to send us any amount you can afford.
Today was hard. By mid-day I was overwhelmed by just how challenging it will be to reach HOPE for Ariang’s goal: to transform Ariang students through quality education.
From the beginning, I knew that achieving this goal would not be easy. One “quick fix” will not magically change Ariang School into a center of learning where students receive quality education. But as James Baldwin writes,
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
So with the goal in mind, we set our first priority and established a clear plan this year: Empowering Educators Initiative. As a teacher myself, I am convinced that a central way to transform Ariang students is through effective school leaders who will develop a positive school culture, engage students in stimulating lessons, and guide students towards mastery. We called in “teacher development experts” in East Africa, Dignitas Project to offer what we believe will be the BEST training the teachers can receive.
But today I was reminded of the divide between the goal and reality. Ariang Primary’s reality is that our teachers are undereducated, untrained, and face many of the same injustices that Ariang students do. They are from the same community that has suffered from decades of war and where signs of development are nearly non-existent. This is evident as you drive through the nearest town to see an abandoned teaching hospital, an unfinished school, and a dirt road that is inaccessible during rainy season. Seeing change is not easy in Ariang.
Today marked the third day of our first Teacher Training Institute. Throughout these two weeks in Nairobi, the six selected Ariang fellows are in training sessions from 8:00 – 4:30 pm daily, with additional work to complete in the evening. They are saturated and immersed in all things pedagogy. But by mid-day today, I was overwhelmed with what seems to be the long road we have to eventually realize our goal.
The waves of reality hit me during a session on positive framing, which is essentially how teachers guide students to do better by inspiring them with positive tone and feedback. As I sat with a small group of three as they tried to dissect a text on positive framing techniques and strategies, I observed that the teacher fellows struggled with the texts’ language. They had such limited background knowledge on the topic, making it difficult for them to grasp and understand the subject. They. just. weren’t. getting. It. At all! I felt like a failure. What do I think I’m trying to achieve? Why did I think I could bring them to a training and change anything? These teachers can’t really transform their classroom and school. The facilitators must feel like this is a waste of their time. Negative thoughts continued as the gap between the teacher’s understanding and the content seemed to get wider and wider throughout the session. Thankfully I was not alone. Dignitas facilitators observed the same realities. Even though we discussed that less is more during the early stages of planning for this Institute, today they recognized that even LESS than LESS is more.
During the lunch break the facilitators did some quick debriefing and revising to take a new direction in the afternoon. We spent the afternoon going over the same content again, but this time with simplified language and a condensed one-page handout with the main ideas of each technique. Each positive framing strategy was reviewed, many examples were given, and the facilitators modeled, modeled, and modeled again. At the end, teachers worked in pairs to choose a positive framing strategy and model what it looks like in action. The teachers quickly fell back on what feels “natural” or how they typically curve behavior in their classroom. But they were encouraged to try again, and again, and again. Feedback was provided. And then… it happened. Small little glimpses of change. Don’t misinterpret; it wasn’t a hallmark moment or anything. Even still, the teachers were modeling the new strategy in their practice scenarios. They. Were. Starting. To. Get. It. Not perfectly, still with misconceptions, still with much practice needed. But there was a small shift in how they addressed student behaviors before and how they address student behaviors now.
Transforming a rural community school in South Sudan doesn’t have any quick fixes. It is naïve to think that after these first two weeks classrooms will be transformed. I may return to Ariang next month to find the same quality of teaching and learning happening as what took place before the institute. These teacher fellows will require ongoing support to implement the ideas and concepts they are learning in Nairobi. It’s likely they won’t succeed at first. They will need constructive feedback. They will need strategies modeled again. They will need commitment and motivation to keep working towards change and growth as teachers and school leaders. This is the reality of development, especially in a developing country that exists in fragile peace. We may have a program planned that looks wonderful on paper, but in reality we are in the “business of people”, and people don’t change overnight. Growth takes time, energy, resources, and practice.
HOPE for Ariang’s goal to transform Ariang students through quality education will take time and it certainly won’t happen after this first institute. We need to be ready to shift gears, revise the plan, or try again. It will certainly take long-term commitment and hope in the face of challenges and injustices.
I am reminded of some of the Community Builders that the facilitators begin each day with, these activities are designed to help teachers foster community and ease into the day’s work. Today we did the Human Knot where everyone stands in a circle, holds hands across the circle with two people, and then they must try to untangle the knot and make a whole circle again (without letting go of each other’s hands). When the teachers first tried, many mistakes were made. Lack of communication or a clear plan make the task difficult. In their first attempt they were completely unsuccessful. The knot was too complex and too hard. Everyone gave up and let go of the others’ hands. In a sense, they failed. But then they tried again. This time, using their prior unsuccessful experience, they communicated better, some people assumed a leadership position, and they discussed ideas before making the next move. It was after this second time that they were successful.
Transforming Ariang students through quality education will not be easy and can’t be fixed with one simple solution. We will fail along the way when implementing new projects and ideas. We will learn many hard lessons. We will face setback. We will have try again and again. But if we don’t face these challenges, then certainly nothing can ever change.
I’m thankful that our HOPE for Ariang supporters understand the complex context in which we work and that they choose to journey with us on the sometimes long and difficult road towards growth and development. You believe in our mission and propel us forward towards our collective goal. And when we succeed, you get to share in our joy that all students are being transformed by quality education at Ariang Primary School.