South Sudan: Investing in a new nation
“It’s been decades of conflict. People have been suffering and they’re just longing for peace.”
South Sudan is the earth’s newest nation, having seceded from Sudan in 2011. It’s been a troubled early start for the country, though, with frequent unrest and a breakdown of basic services. People are poor and exhausted – South Sudan ranks almost at the bottom of all 189 countries on the human development index – but they all want a more secure future for their children.
One hopeful sign of progress came when the national education bureau decreed that it was now compulsory for schools to teach IT skills as part of the curriculum. When our NGO partners in South Sudan heard this, though, they could only laugh ruefully.
“Almost no schools have computer facilities for students!” they told us. “Most teachers don’t know how to use a computer, and students are all learning computer skills by copying notes from a blackboard.”
Almost no households in the surrounding community are connected to electricity, let alone the internet. So, the day that computers from our recent shipment were brought to a school was a momentous one. Before students could begin learning how to use them, the teachers themselves had to ‘go to school’!
“When we were moving the CPUs and monitors to the staff room, the teachers had no idea what they were,” wrote staff.
The teachers had seen NGO staff using laptops in their work, but hadn’t seen a desktop computer before. “Many teachers were touching a real computer for the first time. You can imagine how excited they are!” they said. They are making quick progress and already using the computers to type exam papers and other teaching materials. “We’re going to set up desktop computers in a computer lab when solar panels are in place for power supply, so that our students can learn ICT subjects with real computers,” they wrote.
This shipment included a wide variety of other goods for the school and for the students themselves, who lack some of the most basic essentials, such as menstrual care products for girls. A donation of bright yellow raincoats was a surprising hit, too! “Students and staff alike have been missing school or community projects because of heavy rain. Umbrellas can be bought, but they’re very expensive.” Now, with raincoats from the shipment they can participate and contribute regardless of weather.
What a privilege to be able to share so much with those who have so little. We know that even in the midst of the intense challenges facing South Sudan, our partners there will be doing all they can to invest in the nation’s youth for a better future.
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