BACKGROUND: Since 2013, oil-rich South Sudan has been in a civil war defined by extreme violence and brutal attacks on civilians. In what has become the largest refugee crisis in Africa, one-third of the population has fled their homes. Since the war began, tens of thousands of people have been killed and approximately 6 million people are facing starvation.
Literacy levels, especially for women, are shockingly low. Middle school enrollment is 5% and is the lowest in the world; it also reflects a profound gender bias where only 1% of girls attend school. Most of the country’s teachers are untrained, poorly paid and lack the most basic teaching materials. School infrastructure is limited and often poor quality.
In the midst of the unrest and turmoil in South Sudan, Sister Carolyn Buhs serves as teacher and librarian at the Solidarity Teacher Training College in Yambio. She is the focus of this week’s 2018 Lenten Snapshot. Caption: Sister Carolyn Buhs
There is an urgent need for qualified teachers in South Sudan, where school attendance is low and illiteracy is high. Solidarity Teacher Training College is recognized for its high quality primary school teacher training. Sister Carolyn works closely with students at the College, helping them prepare for their roles as teachers in South Sudan.
In addition to the need for teachers, there is a great demand for more educated women in general. However, too few girls have the secondary school qualifications to begin any training. Sister Carolyn is hopeful that situation will improve, as many women have shown an eagerness for more education.
The students at Solidarity Teachers Training College come from diverse tribes, yet they learn to live together in peace and mutual respect.
Sister Carolyn says the students take real pride in who they are and what they are achieving. The obvious happiness of the students and the good relationships they have developed is evidence of the ability to overcome cultural differences.
There are other areas of progress and hope elsewhere is South Sudan, as the international Solidarity religious group works together to improve educational opportunities. A new school, De La Salle Secondary School is being built in Rumbek. It is a day school for young men progressing from primary school. Local tribal chiefs understanding the importance of education for their youth jointly provided the land for the new school.
Recently, over 300 child soldiers (children exploited and forced to serve in the military) were given school bags on their first day of class. Of those children, 87 were girls. Caption: Young women from the Loreto Secondary School assemble in the school yard.
Solidarity Teacher Training College and Sister Carolyn will continue to train students to be teachers. Each new teacher is a positive step amidst troubled times in South Sudan. The future of South Sudan depends very much on improving the standard of education, increasing the number of students and training the leaders of the next generation. Caption: Graduation day at the Solidarity Teacher Training College.
During this Lenten season, we are most grateful for your prayers for lasting peace in South Sudan as well as support in helping our Sisters educate for life.