South Sudan has endured decades of civil war, and troubles continue in parts of that country. Amidst the devastation, places like Western Equatoria State are now largely peaceful, with education seen as a key element of building hope and stability. John Scouller, a member of St James' Church, Styvechale, writes about one project seeking to support girls in education.
A Comic Relief Special 'Kids in Camps' last month told the story of Grace from South Sudan, who had to run for her life when her home was attacked. On her own, her priority was to find a new school: "If I am alive, I must have an education" she says.
The report highlighted the crucial importance of schooling for girls in areas of crisis and post-conflict reconstruction. This is particularly important in South Sudan where 90% of girls leave primary school to get married, and more teenage girls die in childbirth than go to secondary school.
A beacon of light is Ibba Girls School which opened just a year ago. The school is the vision of the local government Commissioner Bridget Nagomoro who until recently was the only girl from Ibba to get schooling beyond the age of 10. Two years ago, she and a local chief Severio donated 73 acres of their own land to set up this school, although they lacked resources to build on the land.
Help came when they met Prof. John Benington, from Warwick University. With contacts from across England, Friends of Ibba Girls’ School (FIGS) was established and set out to raise the resources to enable Bridget and others in Western Equatoria realise their dream.
Despite the tense situation in South Sudan, the school opened in March 2014, and there are now 80 young girls attending aged 10-12.
The girls are eager to come and study, many travelling difficult journeys to get there, because these girls and their families know what a huge difference education can make to their life-chances. It is a residential school, where the girls feel safe, get regular meals, and have fun and many are very keen on playing football!
Commissioner Bridget has strong support from South Sudanese Anglican community, including Bishop Wilson in Ibba and the Archbishop of South Sudan, Dr Daniel Deng. Daniel sees investing in girls’ education as vital to the future of the country.
So far Ibba Girls School has been largely funded by voluntary and community donations from the UK, including support from many churches through special gift days or annual tithe, together with individual donations from their congregations. FIGS is Coventry-based, and strong support has come from a growing number of churches in Coventry Diocese.
On 27th March the trustees meet in Coventry to review progress and plan for the future growth of the school to cater for girls up to the age of 18.
Websites will open in a new window