Category Archives: Raising South Sudan

Women at the Center

Dr. Ann Evans, September 6, 2017Women celebrate gift of hand grain grinders from Dr. Ann

For several years, I’ve been traveling to Old Fangak, South Sudan, a community once known as a sleepy little riverside village that has grown dramatically. My trips began to support the medical work of a truly amazing woman, Dr. Jill Seaman. She would never say it, but her work in humanitarian healthcare is legendary. Unexpectedly, my involvement in Old Fangak greatly expanded after I gave a modest gift of grinders to a group of local women.

Their gratitude was overwhelming, and we were soon working side by side, grinding grain and clearing weeds from a half-finished, abandoned cement block building. The women cut thigh-high brush with their “pangas” and I finished construction by adding a roof. The building became the anchor for the “Women at the Center – South Sudan” project in Old Fangak.

Two classes of women studentsEducation for All
Each time I met with the women, it was clear that lack of education is a heartbreaking gap for them and their children. At a first informal literacy/numeracy class, 400 women showed up. We also spoke about the lack of even one functioning primary school for the children. More construction ensued with metal buildings for classrooms. Today, there are 1,300 children attending with textbooks aligned to the national curriculum. Girls are 50% of new students. It was an honor when South Sudan’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology nominated the work for a UNESCO prize. Click here to watch a video.

Porridge Servings_Old Fangak Community School_2017Hunger is an Enemy
Last year, was particularly hard for these women and their community. One brutal reality of South Sudan is the impact of hunger. In 2016, women and children we serve had to literally forage for food. We are eternally grateful that this year, with support from nonprofit Rise Against Hunger, the Women at the Center project includes a daily serving of porridge to all children at the Old Fangak primary school and a sustainable agriculture pilot with fast-growing crops. By the end of this year, an even more substantial meals program should be in place for older children who have longer school days. The agriculture pilot is also being expanded to include a greater variety of grains and vegetables.

Old_Fangak_South_Sudan_Patricia_Shafer_and_Ann_Evans_600Collaborations Matter
On this challenging but rewarding journey, I’ve met incredible, like-minded people. Canadian Sister Barbara Paleczny has become a lifelong friend while bringing teacher training to the community through nonprofit South Sudan. And it was a welcome surprise to meet Patricia Shafer, Executive Director of Mothering Across Continents, and learn of MAC’s similar work in a totally different part of South Sudan. We spent a year establishing a relationship, and 10 months ago Women at the Center became a MAC flagship project. This management support and nonprofit status accelerated and increased Women at the Center – South Sudan’s impact.

Students with Personal Chalkboards_Old Fangak School_May 2017On My Next Trip
This November, the first thing I’ll do when I return to Old Fangak is meet with the women to discuss how things are going with them and children attending primary school. The project’s recent addition of an Early Childhood Development program is unique to much of Africa and previously unknown in Old Fangak. There will be a planning session ways to keep expanding classes for adults, especially women who have never had the most basic education.

But as much as has been accomplished, I’m just one woman. Being a flagship project of MAC sustains the vision. The project can always use more desks, education scholarships for women, uniforms, teacher training . . . I welcome support for these women and children with open arms.

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Do Umbrellas Make Good Teachers?

Patricia Shafer, August 18, 2017

Teachers with UmbrellasWhen people first hear about our Raising South Sudan education project they often say, “Do you build schools?” Answer: “Yes.”

For example, there’s the Nyarweng Primary School inspired by former Lost Boys of Sudan James Lubo Mijak and Ngor Kur Mayol and their friends Phillips Bragg and Karen Puckett. And we’re improving the facilities of the Gumriak Primary School established by former Lost Boy James Manyror.

But sustainable education also depends on teachers being paid, appreciated, and provided with resources – from classroom materials to coats, boots and umbrellas during the rainy season.

MealsLunch, Tea, Agriculture
Hunger is one big barrier to learning. In 2017, two agencies of the United Nations declared famine in certain parts of the country. At Raising South Sudan project schools, meals are provided to all students. Lunch and tea breaks are a daily treat and motivator for teachers. And through a collaboration with nonprofit Rise Against Hunger, we’ve been expanding gardens and farms to improve nutrition and create cash crops that help sustain schools.

BooksBooks, Materials, Training
South Sudan has an approved national curriculum, but most schools don’t have materials. With donations from US schools participating in our Walk for Wisdom service learning fundraisers, we bought teacher guides and student workbooks for all subjects across all grades. Grants from St. Luke’s Episcopal Church Foundation and the Peeler/Casey Foundation funded an illustrated series of folktales and continuous training on lesson plan development for 30+ teachers and staff.

Sarah TeachingWomen, Girls, ECD Innovations
Most women in South Sudan haven’t finished primary school, so teaching staffs are generally male. So, we’re emphasizing education for girls. Thanks to proactive recruiting, girls make up 30+% of students at Raising South Sudan project schools and 50+% in Early Childhood Development classes. We were honored when South Sudan nominated this work for a UNESCO prize for girls’ and women’s literacy.

Gerald and Principal with computerSerious About Testing
Eighth graders (last year of primary school in South Sudan) recently completed mock national exams. The Gumriak school ranked #1 in Ruweng State, and Nyarweng ranked #3. But aspirations are even higher. Teachers must develop “schemes of work” and lesson plans, but professional development is rare. So, in September, our education facilitators are reviewing exam results and helping teachers set personal improvement goals for 2017 final exams and next year.

Will you help us continue this progress? Support the Teachers, Embrace Our Kids.
http://tinyurl.com/RSS-SupportTeachers