The new Government of South Sudan inherited a country with very little education infrastructure and an acute shortage of qualified teachers. Infrastructure is shockingly inadequate across South Sudan but is even worse in the war ravaged and largely neglected north western corner of the country.
Since 2013 we have partnered with a small local community organisation, the Wedweil Community Development Fund, and the South Sudanese refugee community in Australia to rebuild education infrastructure and outcomes for children and young people in Aweil State.
This partnership grew from a relationship in Australia with Santino Yuot, a former refugee and leader of the South Sudanese community in Australia, to support a school renovation project in Santino’s home village of Wedweil in Aweil State, South Sudan. Like many refugees living in Australia, Santino and the organisation he founded and represents, the Dinka Literacy Association, care deeply about their community back home.
Wedweil faces staggering challenges. Infrastructure in Aweil State has not been rebuilt since the previous civil war, and 92% of its people live below the poverty line. Many people have never experienced proper schooling.
The school in Wedweil was built prior to 1965 and badly damaged during the war. It had no roof and the local community had gathered grass and tree branches to create some protection. But it was not enough to keep the school going in hot and rainy weather. In 2015, indigo foundation funded a new roof, which meant that students are now able to learn in all weather.
In 2016, we worked with Santino and the community to organise the first teacher-training in the area for 10 teachers from Wedweil School and 15 teachers from surrounding schools. We also supported the building of the first toilets for the school, including a separate female toilet which is a big factor in family’s deciding to send their girls to school.
School numbers increased from 400 to 500 children and young people who dropped out of school at the height of the conflict are now returning to finish their schooling. In recognition of the improvements to the school, the teaching and enrolments, the government has converted the school to be the first Secondary School in the area.
In 2017 we worked with the community, the South Sudanese Ministry of Education and the World Food Program to launch a three year teacher training program for over 60 teachers from three states. Over 100 teachers attended the training in 2019.
We also continue to rebuild and improve infrastructure of Wedweil School, including establishing clean water supply in 2018, erecting a fence around the school and working towards establishing a cooperative garden on school grounds – a key community priority giving looming famine in South Sudan and the fact that the majority of students and teachers arrive at school hungry.