Nimule, 18 January 2012 – The last group of teachers officially graduated from their training programme in December as the Jesuit Refugee Service prepares to wind down activities in South Sudan.
Initially, JRS supported teachers to study in Adjumani, however, following the signing of the peace agreement it was moved to Nimule in 2007. Since then, hundreds of students studying to become teachers have received financial, material and other support from JRS.
"It's always hard to wind down projects. During our time here we have trained thousands of teachers and educated tens of thousands of students. Although there is still plenty to do, it's more development than forced migration, and I think the people and organisations here are in a good position to take up where we have left off", said JRS Nimule Secondary Education Coordinator, Andebo Pax Pascal.
More than three hundred people gathered as their relatives received their degrees and diplomas at the ceremony held in Pageri Payam in Magawi county close to the South Sudan-Uganda border. Celebrations were accompanied by music, traditional artistic performances by community elders, and speeches in which the graduates were congratulated and reminded of how they can use their educational qualifications to help build the new nation, South Sudan.
Teacher training, a key asset for the future
"This is an opportunity to raise the awareness of parents and young people of the importance of education, and to bring the graduates in Madi area together to take stock of the human resources available and provide that data to the local government", said the chairperson of the organising committee, Andruga Hillary Jacob, explaining the purpose of the graduation ceremony.
"Graduates should not remain job-seekers. The knowledge and skills they have obtained should enable them to do something creatively for the community", said Amula Richard Ruffino, the graduates' representative and former JRS beneficiary of the teacher-training.
Mr Ruffino urged the government to provide an enabling environment for young people to advance with education and to provide opportunities for the graduates to practice their professions.
"The JRS project in Nimule is set to exit by December 2012. I therefore call upon you members of the local community to mobilise and strengthen structures for supporting and monitoring local education activities and programmes, since the exit will certainly leave a gap", said the guest of honour, Charles Mogga, former JRS Education Coordinator, as he closed the ceremony.
JRS has been in the Nimule area since 1997, supporting a community of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and others affected by the conflict between the Sudanese government and the former rebel group, the Sudanese Peoples' Liberation Army. During this time, JRS has managed a variety of education programmes at primary and secondary level, particularly focusing on girls' education and teacher training, as well as functional adult literacy (FAL), and peace and community education.
These activities later extended to refugees returning from exile in Uganda and Kenya after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005. JRS support in the formal education sector spans across 25 primary schools, four secondary schools and 15 FAL centres – benefiting approximately 15,000 individuals.