JRS opens first permanent primary school building in LoboneAugust 21, 2009
On August 5th, 2009, Jesuit Refugee Service inaugurated the first primary school with permanent buildings in Lobone, Southern Sudan.
The inauguration ceremony attracted over 500 people. It started with the blessing of the site through the JRS Eastern Africa Regional Director, Fr. Frido Pflueger, S.J. The school was then officially handed over to the local community. The rest of the day was marked by speeches, songs, poems, a football match and the performance of traditional dances and dramas which all showed the overwhelming joy and gratitude of the people of Lobone.
In his speech, Fr. Pflueger emphasized the need for hard work and the importance of recruiting qualified teachers. He called on the teachers to be authentic role models: “Your students are the future of the country. Help them to become people of character who are willing to use their skills to rebuild their country,” he said.
After a two decades long civil war, most of the people returned to Lobone in April and May 2008, starting community schools under trees and in non-permanent, grass thatched structures. Now, more than 500 pupils will be moved to the new school and will benefit from the improved learning environment.
The new Pamaikong Primary School encompasses two classroom blocks of four classrooms each and one administration block – all fully furnished – as well as four pit latrine blocks with five stances each. Construction had started at the beginning of this year and was primarily funded by the Spanish company INDITEX, the Spanish government and a grant from the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.
On behalf of the Government of Southern Sudan, the Payam Education Officer Mr. Dominic Obel expressed his gratitude towards JRS and asked Fr. Pflueger to consider extending JRS’s mandate in Lobone. He further promised to find solutions for the remaining problems in the area of education, such as the recruitment and payment of teachers as well as the construction of more schools.
In another speech, the Executive Chief of Lobone Payam (a payam is a sub-county) Mr. Otto Justin Odwar appreciated the fact that, compared to other agencies, JRS was the only organisation that had never evacuated their staff from Lobone, not even at the height of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency. “This reflects the commitment of JRS staff and the fact that they care for us,” he said.
According to JRS Project Director Lam Leone Ferem, celebrations among the local community went on for four days after the ceremony had officially ended. “A dream has come true today and the celebrations show how grateful and happy people are about their new school,” he said. “JRS is hopeful to construct more classrooms and latrines in two nearby villages as soon as the funding is secured,” he added.
JRS has been present in Lobone since 2001, providing basic education and pastoral care. Currently, the organisation supports eight nursery, seven primary and two secondary schools and provides teacher training as well as adult literacy and peace education. The overall aim of JRS’s intervention in Lobone is to build the capacity of education officials and to help rebuild school infrastructure and resources.
Henry Langoya is the Primary Education Coordinator in Lobone, JRS South Sudan.
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Mr Christian Fuchs
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202-462-0400 ext. 5946