News from Rumbek
School Holidays and the challenges they bring to our students
Child education for girls is an efficient strategy for breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty and lifting families and communities from a place of marginalization. Thousands of girls are kept from school due to poverty, financial constraints, early marriage and conflicts in some areas in South Sudan.
For the lucky ones, their parents send them to school despite the challenges, not only as a chance to improve their futures, but also to boost the family’s fortunes.
When Loreto Girls Secondary School breaks for holidays, the students have the chance to spend time with their families and relax from their studies. At the end of the short vacation students and staff alike return and press on together, as the Loreto family.
Some of the students come from far away places and the roads are poorly constructed and insecure, so the school hosts them over the holidays. During this time, the girls are provided with more freedom with school facilities to encourage them not to miss being home and also to enjoy the break. They get ample time for activities like volleyball, watching movies, singing, and dancing together.
But, they also do some work while here. In the morning hours, the girls are given some light tasks to perform. They earn a small stipend in return, which helps them purchase a few personal items. For those students who are in greater need of some extra money, for school fees or shopping, they are given specific jobs to perform.
As Collet explains, “I enjoyed the holiday at school. I also communicated with people from home so I don’t miss home much. I did some little work and got some money which I used to buy soap and some other things. We also spend time with the other students harvesting groundnuts and making the school a better place for us like cleaning the compound. We relaxed as we enjoyed stories and movies after.”
They enjoy the stay and also have the chance to share life experiences and stories in groups of peers. With guidance from one of the school nurses, Nicole Hess, a group of girls attended a five-day trauma healing program. One of the goals was to help them learn how to manage their emotions during hard situations that directly affect their life, like forced marriages.
They also learn about suffering, grief, forgiveness, and resilience. It’s a spiritually based program that teaches them to carry their burdens and suffering to the cross. It emphasizes that full healing can only come from God.
For those at home, the stay may not be that easy and the holiday can come with challenges. Some of the girls have to work hard to afford transport back to school and for personal effects. Others face threats of forced marriage which is a major challenge. They have to advocate for their own education with the hope of coming back to continue learning, so as to be ambassadors of hope to the larger society.
With the holidays comes uncertainty
According to Hellen Agapic of Senior Three, “My holiday was a bit tough this time. My younger sister is 14 years of age and was forced to get married to a man who has 12 wives. My sister told me if she’s forced to marry that man she will go to hiding. School has taught me the disadvantages of early marriages so I advised her not to accept. My father wanted cows to pay for the crime my brother committed. My father told me I will not go to school because I advised my sister not to get married or he will take me to the prison or I will also get married. I convinced my father to allow me to continue with education so as to have a bright future. When Sr Orla knew about it, she sent someone to talk to my father to allow me to come to school and he accepted.”
This is just one case. Although most of the girls report back to school, sometimes Loreto may lose a few students that do not return. It is always a risk when the girls go home that some may be forced to get married, having no choice but to succumb to this fate. Currently Loreto has many girls trying to attain their education.
The hope is that one day all young women in South Sudan will not only have the opportunity to go to school, but will supported and encouraged to pursue their education.