Southern Sudan: Starting over
15 April 2009

A child at Pamaikong Primary School in Lobone, Southern Sudan. Almost 80% of the few schools in Southern Sudan are in temporary structures or under trees. (Angelika Mendes/JRS)
In my view, education is the most important tool to develop a country.
Lobone, 15 April 2009 – I was born in 1971 in the Eastern Equatoria state of Southern Sudan and when I was 14 years old fighting erupted in our area. I walked 70 miles to Juba where my parents lived for some years, spending the nights outside. 

In the following years my education was repeatedly disrupted by the war but in 1992 I completed my secondary education in Juba.

Then the situation deteriorated and with friends I had to flee to Uganda, leaving my parents and three siblings behind. I was directed to a refugee camp in Adjumani District, which hosted thousands of fellow Sudanese refugees. 

Over the next five years, our camp was attacked by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and many people were captured, among them my wife. She was tortured but later released. 

Training teachers in exile

I first met JRS in 1993 when I started to teach in one of the primary schools initiated and run by the refugee community. JRS supported the teachers by paying incentives, offering in-service training and supervision and sponsoring our further education. With the help of JRS I obtained a Certificate in Education and a Diploma. 

In my view, education is the most important tool to develop a country. It is through the assistance of JRS that we have trained teachers in Southern Sudan today. A good number were recruited to work in JRS projects in Southern Sudan and others hold influential positions in the administration of the counties or with other organisations.

After 16 years in exile, I returned home to Southern Sudan, and three months later, in September 2008, I started working as primary education coordinator with JRS in Lobone. 

Rebuilding the country

We couldn’t return earlier because the area was occupied by IDPs. JRS supported the IDPs for seven years but now, as they go back home, the knowledge is going with them. So, in many ways, we have to start all over again and there is a huge need for JRS support. 

In the future, I would like to go for a university degree. I hope to use my knowledge help my community rebuild our country. I also want to enable my daughters a good education so that they can freely decide what they would like to do in the future. 

I hope that the 2009 elections will work out well as they are the first step to the referendum in 2011. And I hope that the peace will last so that we won’t be forced to flee again.