Santino Yuot, a leader of the South Sudanese community in Australia, approached indigo foundation to support a teacher training and school renovation project in his homeland 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 school was called off in hot and rainy weather. In 2015, indigo foundation funded a new roof, which means that students can now be in enclosed classrooms 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.
Already school numbers have increased from 400 to 500 children. Young people who dropped out of school at the height of the conflict are now returning to finish their schooling.
But the needs are great. In 2017 we are working with the community to sign an agreement for the next phase. Community priorities include restoring more classrooms to accommodate growing student numbers and an expanded teacher training program, drawing in teachers from the surrounding region.
With the looming famine in South Sudan, the community has also prioritised fencing in the school and creating a food garden. This will mean there will be clean water at the school for the first time, as well as food to feed to students and teachers who arrive at school hungry.