African exchange

February 8, 2011 in General, News

Claire Broderick and the students of Elements Xavier, Belvedere College, along with John Guiney SJ and Deirdre Connolly from the Jesuit Mission Office, are working on a link project with a Jesuit school in Wau, in South Sudan. The project aims to raise awareness of the issues facing students in both locations with particular emphasis on lifestyle, culture, education, environment. Students from both schools have exchanged letters and photographs with each other to encourage the idea of equality and independence by developing the idea of partnership and cultural exchange moving away from the idea of aid and handouts. John Guiney SJ, the Director of the Irish Jesuit Mission Office, and Triona McKee, manager at Messenger Publications, visited Wau in October 2010 and shared with us the following story of the Jesuit secondary school in Wau. Read more. The Loyola Jesuit School in Wau, South Sudan, was forced to close over twenty years ago during the on-going civil war. Many of its students fled Sudan, and the army soon took over the building. The building, now picturesque and tranquil on the side of a hill overlooking the town, was the site of many horrific events, including torture, rape and
the slaughter of civilians. But after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, the army moved out, the school was handed back to the Jesuits, who reopened it in 2007.

The Loyola school founder, Fr. Richard Cherry SJ, returned after a 20-year absence to help in this task. He helped with other Jesuits to refurbish the building and is currently teaching Maths and Physics at the school; his presence a constant reminder that education is more enduring than war. The school now has 4 classrooms, and 200 students are currently enrolled, about 70 of whom are female. The students range in age from 16 to 42, with many having finished their primary education over 20 years ago, before the original school closed.

It is inspiring to see these students who have seen and experienced so much suffering, to whom education has been denied for so long, enthusiastically returning to their studies. Some are ex-child soldiers, or are recently returned refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs). Some have jobs, others are married with children, yet all see the value of education in order to improve their own lives and their country. The dedication is evident on hearing stories of those who have received special permission from their employers to attend the school, deferring  their work to weekends and evening hours. Many students wish to progress to university, many want to become nurses, doctors. lawyers agriculturalists in order to answer the great need of their suffering people.

The classes are being run through the medium of English, which is in itself a departure from the norms of Sudan, where secondary school subjects usually revolve around Arabic tuition. The Jesuit school have classes in the social sciences and humanities as well as maths and science. At present all materials for the educational curriculum come from North
Sudan and are in the Arabic language. Trócaire is supporting the Loyola school to translate and print these texts from Arabic to English, for use both in the school and other English language schools in Wau.

The Irish Jesuit Mission office is supporting the reconstruction of the Jesuit community and school. The Jesuits have ambitious plans to expand the school to accommodate up to 1000 students, which will require a school extension of up to 30 classrooms. All this will depend on whether the fragile peace agreement holds. January 9th,2011 in Sudan is a special day when South Sudan will vote in a referendum for unity or separation with the North. All expect that there will be separation and a new African country will come into being. We pray all will pass in peace.