66. Children can be Cheated
A recent evaluation report commissioned by the Jesuit Refugee Services in Juba stated:
‘…Key problems that need to be targeted now include the frequent absence of teachers from school, teachers who are present but don’t teach and teachers with limited teaching skills. … Most pupils could neither read nor calculate when they finished their third year of primary education.’
Building schools and giving more children the chance to attend schools is not enough. The children are cheated of their only opportunity to be educated if the teachers in those schools do not teach well. Three years of primary education and most children do not possess basic numeracy and literacy skills. Yet these are not kids of limited ability. Many can communicate already in several languages. One major problem is that the attendance of many of the children is far better than that of their teachers!
Not that it would be fair to blame the teachers! Most are very poorly paid and sometimes their pay is a month or two delayed in reaching them. So they need to do other work to support their families. The encouraging signs, however, are the large number who generously give up their vacation time to follow our in-service programmes. Solidarity with Southern Sudan is currently delivering the four-year GoSS teacher training curriculum to 176 teachers in three centres – Malakal, Yambio and Leer.
An additional 43 teachers are following a Foundation programme in Malakal where they are receiving instruction for eight weeks for 6 periods each day of seventy-minute duration - five periods of English and one of Maths. The Foundation programme is a preparatory programme, offered principally to improve their level of English so that they can commence formal teacher training next year. Additional to these 219 teachers, there are further in-service programmes to be offered during the year in Nzara, Renk, Wau and Bentieu as well as the beginning the two year full-time pre-service programme for graduates from secondary school who wish to train to become teachers.
Solidarity is making a determined effort to boost teaching quality in Southern Sudan. Our new purpose-built facilities are in use in Malakl and Yambio and one can sense the increased motivation and pride of the teachers in attending the SSS programmes. Without doubt the hardest task rests with Be Denis, Sr Luchita, Sr Sandra and the other tutors working in Leer for various periods of time. Whereas the tutors at Yambio and Malakal now live on-site, with the convenience that provides, in Leer it is a 25 minute morning walk, often in hot and dusty conditions, to the local primary school where classes are held - and a return trek about 5:30pm.
Our tutors accept this and the Sudanese are also an uncomplaining lot. Last week, I drove about eight hours from Riimenze to Juba for a meeting and two days later made the reverse trip. I was on my own and decided I did not need to rush but would be prepared to pick up women and children who tried to flag me down for a ride. So it was that I carried five groups of people for various distances to Juba and four more ‘hitchhikers’ on the way back. The first group of women were carrying their babies to a health care clinic. Two young girls were carrying a very heavy bag of grain. Most had quite heavy loads. A few were quite elderly. What astounded me was how far I carried most of these people. If not given a ride, they would have walked, what I would regard, extraordinary long distances in hot and dusty conditions.
Although I could communicate with very few of them myself, it was interesting to hear the chatter and one could sense their appreciation. I continue to learn from the people here to accept what I have with gratitude. Happiness does not come from having great possessions but from sharing what we do have with others. Even a cup of water, or a ride, is appreciated.
– Br Bill
Sr. Margaret Scott in Yambio
Sr. Margaret Sheehan teaching in Malakal
Sr. Luchita teaching in Leer
Sr. Betty & teachers in Malakal
Sr. Barbara in Malakal meeting returning families
Sr. Barbara & Malakal teachers
Br. Julius CFC & Br. Heldon FSC
Br. Heldon teaching in Yambio
Br. Denis in Leer
Br. Bill speaking to students