|South Sudan: A role model for students and teachers|
(Nimule, South Sudan) April 16, 2012 — Esther is a role model for her community. A secondary education teacher of commerce and accounting at Fulla Secondary School, Nimule, and a married mother of three children, she exudes happiness, confidence and professionalism. However, as a former refugee, the journey to this point has not been easy and she attributes her success to the support of JRS over a period of nearly 12 years, from 2000 to 2011.
Displacement at a young age
Esther was born in a tiny village in Pageri Payam (sub-county) in Eastern Equatoria State, South Sudan. One of six children (although two later died), she was forced at an early age to move into exile in Adjumani district, northern Uganda as the civil war in southern Sudan intensified. Once in Adjumani, Esther settled into primary school and studied hard. However, in 1995, just as she was about to sit the important primary school examinations, her life was disrupted again as her mother left home and her parents separated. Esther was left to support her father by caring for her three siblings. The family’s financial constraints meant that Esther’s father could no longer afford to send her to school. Esther stayed at home for two months, but then after raising enough money, she managed to pass her exams.
A long road to secondary school
Esther’s next challenge was to find a way to attend secondary school! She was lucky to be supported by her uncle and spent two fruitful years progressing her education. However circumstances changed again when Esther became pregnant at a young age and had to drop out. Needing support, she returned to Nimule, South Sudan, where her mother had relocated.
In 2000, Esther was finally able to resume her education. She joined Fulla Secondary School in Nimule and worked in her spare time cleaning the school or cutting firewood to pay her school fees. It was at that time she first learned of JRS as they used to buy her firewood for the running of their workshop programs. JRS were also supporting education at the school through the provision of stationary, textbooks and supplementary funds. In 2002, Esther was successful in completing Senior Four and passed her exams with the second-highest grade possible!
A competent and hard-working student, Esther was noticed by a local group of Sisters. In exchange for some household chores, they provided for her basic needs and supported her with the fees required to attend an advanced secondary school in Masindi, Uganda. Unfortunately, after just one term, the Sisters left Nimule and were unable to continue supporting her. All was not lost, however, as the headmistress of her school recognized her potential and arranged to support the completion of her studies in return for taking care of the school chickens. At last, in 2004, Esther graduated from secondary school — a real achievement given the many obstacles in her way.
A golden opportunity for teacher training
Esther returned to Nimule, believing that this was now the end of her academic work. However, a golden opportunity presented itself unexpectedly. JRS advertised teacher vacancies at Fulla Secondary School and she was accepted. JRS was inspired by her dedication to study, despite forced displacement and difficult conditions in South Sudan, and after a period of teaching, JRS supported Esther to undertake teacher training at the National Teachers College, Unyama, Uganda, followed by a Bachelors degree in Business Education at Ndejje University, Uganda.
A role model for students, she has been back at Fulla teaching since May 2011. "I do not know how my life would be without JRS support. My life has been positively shaped by JRS," she said.
Esther’s dream is to study to Masters degree level, and to move into higher education teaching or education sector planning. “JRS should continue to offer this kind of support to other people who are in situations like mine, especially women,” she said.
By Andebo Pax Pascal
Jesuit Refugee Service has been operating in Nimule since 1997, supporting a community of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and war-affected persons. Later, the project was expanded to support the populations of returnees who came back from exile in neighboring countries such as Uganda and Kenya after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005. JRS has trained around 30 secondary school teachers during its operations there. JRS’s support in the formal education sector spans across 25 primary schools, four secondary schools and 15 functional literacy centers – serving in total of about 15,000 beneficiaries.