South Sudan: The Primary Eight Heroes of Maban

06 December 2021|Michael Kinaka SJ, Education Programme Assistant in Maban, South Sudan

Refugee and host communities attend JRS school in Maban, South Sudan.

In my contemplative prayer of the incarnation, I imagine the Holy Trinity gazing at the education situation in Maban.

I see the three persons desiring the children of God on this part of our universe to experience quality education. Many children in Maban, both in the refugee populations and host communities, still struggle with access to education. Many have no place to call a school.

A few years ago, JRS started responding to this to support education for the marginalized communities in Maban. Uffra community was identified and supported in setting up some basic school facilities, together with the provision of reading materials, incentives to teachers, and feeding programmes for the learners.  Though humble, the centre is a source of hope and joy to many. Here, the youthful people of South Sudan have a chance to dream.

Our host government came up with a curriculum that accelerates the duration spent in school in order to accommodate learners of ‘advanced age’ This Accelerated Learning Programme takes four years instead of the customary eight years needed to complete the primary level.

Recently, two of the first lot of the primary eight candidates in Uffra School passed their final examinations. Believe me, this is one of the greatest achievements and blessings we have received this year. Mabruk /congrats to Joseph and Jerica, our two boys who have made us proud. They now have a success story to tell.

As good sons of the soil, Jerica and Joseph were celebrated by the whole village for proving to their peers that it is possible to excel given the opportunity. Jerica’s family organized a celebration that gathered their son’s teachers, some JRS staff and fellow community members into this dance of thanksgiving.

I had a hearty chat with Jerica “How do you feel today?” I asked. “I am so happy.“ “Why are you happy, Jerica?” He responded: “Because of salvation.”  Jerica’s thoughts on what the celebration made him feel as well as what they meant to him exude gratitude. Despite his tender age, he is focused to continue with his education, to say no to ‘early forced’ marriage and to become a man for others. Possibly  Jerica’s use of the word “salvation” as a summary of his feelings not only implied his strong faith in God who saves, but also referred to what he regards as the purpose of education. We would all agree with him that education liberates us from ignorance and other ills that inhibit our fraternal coexistence.

I take the celebration to honour Jerica’s achievement as indicative of a cultural shift in favor of education. The elaborate communal celebration witnessed in his honour are customarily held to mark the marriage of young girls and boys. Interestingly in Jerica’s case, the same dance by the same community was made on the account of his educational achievement.

As the Trinity gazes upon the earth and decides to send one of them to help the world, we feel called to give ourselves more to accompany our young people in their education journey. They still need our support to continue walking on this path in search of knowledge.