In poorly educated South Sudan, MCC builds up schools

In world’s newest country, where literacy is low and political instability continues, MCC-supported education includes peace component

Sep 12, 2016 by , and

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RUMBEK, South Sudan — When South Sudan became an independent country in 2011, hopes were high and the future looked bright. But conflict broke out in 2013, and violence has ebbed and flowed since then.

Peace club members at Loreto Girls Secondary School are trained in conflict resolution and peacebuilding. They share what they’ve learned with other students and the community. — Candacia Greeman/MCC

Peace club members at Loreto Girls Secondary School are trained in conflict resolution and peacebuilding. They share what they’ve learned with other students and the community. — Candacia Greeman/MCC

Education levels remain consistently low. Only half of primary school teachers have more than a primary school education. The national literacy rate is only 27 percent, and for women it’s only 16 percent. According to the United Nations, a 15-year-old girl in South Sudan is more likely to die in childbirth than finish secondary school.

Yet in the middle of the country, three miles outside of the town of Rumbek, sit two schools, Loreto Primary School and Loreto Girls Secondary Boarding School, where Mennonite Central Committee supports education and teaches peacebuilding skills.

MCC supports a meal program, provides teacher training and supports a peace club to reduce conflict. In addition, MCC provided 14,000 school kits to Loreto schools and other schools in South Sudan.

Two MCC workers are assigned to Loreto schools: a teacher and teacher trainer, Candacia Greeman of Kenya; and an administrative capacity builder, Benjamin Sprunger of Burkina Faso and Lancaster, Pa.

As a teacher trainer, Greeman shares new techniques to improve the quality of education at the school. She has shown teachers how to do science projects, including a rain-gauge experiment. Teachers also learned how to use drama, songs and poems to teach difficult concepts in a more engaging way.

Sprunger is in charge of an agriculture sustainability project at the Loreto Schools, which also includes a school farm. Students tend crops on the farm, growing peanuts and vegetables such as tomatoes, cassava, kale and spinach for school lunches. Having a meal at school increases attendance and provides students with more nutritious food.

Farm work reinforces what students learn in science class and teaches skills students can use at home. With MCC support, the school added eight acres to the farm, and in 2015 the garden produced enough peanuts to add peanut butter to breakfast.

Taught to build peace

In addition to food for the body, MCC nurtures peaceful relationships at the schools.

The Loreto Peace Club at the secondary school uses MCC Peace Clubs curriculum developed in Zambia. Twenty-four students have been selected to be members because they have an interest in peacebuilding or they’ve been involved in conflict.

Members of the club are trained in conflict resolution and peacebuilding. They share what they’ve learned with other students and the community.

Peace club members host cultural presentations featuring skits, songs and poems about conflict resolution. The club holds Peace Day once a year — filled with dancing and sports — to celebrate the country’s independence while also promoting peace.

The peace club has set up a big sister/little sister mentoring program between the girls’ secondary school and the primary school. In addition to baking together and having a weekend slumber party, the older mentors use art therapy to help children resolve issues and manage their behavior and feelings.


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