In rural Sudan, education is about more than education

A few days ago, I interviewed my friend Sam Ruot who came to Phoenix as a refugee from South Sudan in 2001. I wanted to learn about education in his home country, and I learned that addressing education in many of the places FH works means addressing other critical issues at the same time.

Sam fled his home at age 7 and joined a group of refugee boys
who later came to be known as the Lost Boys of Sudan.
He grew up in a Kenyan refugee camp and arrived in the U.S. at age 17.
FH began providing emergency relief in South Sudan in 2001.
Today, long-term development programs include education,
food security (agriculture), and church development.

In talking with Sam, I realized just how interwoven education is with two other Poverty 180 causes:clean water and gender-based injustice. This can be seen in the life of Sam’s 16-year-old sister, Nyadent, whom he met during his first return to Sudan after 18 years.

Nyadent never has attended school, and Sam was surprised to learn she had not been married already. In Sam’s home county of Leer, like most of rural South Sudan, girls enter arranged marriages by age 14 or so, and it is a girl’s role to fetch water and care for the home.

Nyadent walks an hour to get water and suggested to Sam that if only the water were closer, she could do her chores and attend school.

In Leer, students sit on the floor because they don’t have desks. Many take lessons under the trees because classrooms simply don’t exist, and this makes school impossible when it rains. Teachers often are unpaid and undereducated themselves.

If a teacher is only educated up to third grade, how can he teach fourth grade or above?

While basic infrastructure and teacher training are sorely needed, Sam also noticed that education isn’t highly valued in rural Sudan. Now working toward a master’s degree on global and energy production management, Sam is well-positioned to speak on such a topic. He encourages his family to send the children to school, and he says it is working.

In South Sudan, FH’s education programs build and equip schools,

train teachers, and place special emphasis on education for girls.

In 2010, 51 new teachers were trained, and 46 others were refreshed in their skills. These trained teachers taught more than 5,000 students. In the next two years, FH plans to support education for 20,000 students in addition to 1600 adults and 300 youth to be trained in vocational skills.

This week marks a long-awaited referendum which could mean independence for South Sudan from the North. In the next post, we’ll look more closely at how independence could affect the country’s educational system. Join the Education group on MyFH to stay connected!

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