More than fourteen hours after leaving Washington DC, I arrived in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, early Saturday afternoon. Before my arrival I had a short transfer in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It turns out the leader of Sudan, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, and South Sudanese leader, Salva Kiir, were in Addis Ababa prior to our arrival for a special meeting. According to Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the meeting was expected to move forward stalled peace agreements between the two countries which were at the brink of war last year. Deals regarding border control and oil exports have yet to be implemented and there are no reported results from that meeting.
Sebastian Maroundit, one of my travel partners leading this trip and the President of the non-profit Building Minds in Sudan said the talk between the two leaders has the potential to make monumental changes in the new nation. Maroundit said if the peace agreements move forward that means new measures for the education sector would also move forward in the South. According to a recent World Bank report, years of civil war between the two countries resulted in high concentrations of students in early grades, a high number of overage students, dropouts, and low levels of student learning in South Sudan. Yet, the report also found increasing enrollment at the primary level and a demand for secondary and higher education. Maroundit said if the meeting is successful it could provide a sense of peace and stability for schools currently being rebuilt in the South that were destroyed during war.
The Ajong Primary School in the village of Mayan Abun is one of those schools. Tomorrow we’re heading off to Wau and from there we’ll take a 5 hour drive to Mayan Abun to see the Ajong School. It serves nearly 800 students and was built by funds raised by Rochester-area and upstate New York residents. On Monday I’ll have the opportunity to meet and interview students and teachers at the school and learn more about the steps being taken to ensure young people, not only in this village, but throughout the country, get a sound education.
This is part of WXXI’s reporting and civic engagement initiative around Schools for South Sudan, which explores issues related to education, diversity and racism locally and around the world. Schools for South Sudan is supported in part by The Community Foundation. Follow Hélène's reporting trip on Twitter: @HeleneWXXI and #SouthSudanEd