Sudan: France Total "lifts burden" of Bor Public school construction

News and Press Release
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By Philip Thon Aleu

January 12, 2010 (BOR) - Administration and residents of Hai Machuor in Bor town where Bor Public Primary School is built told the Sudan Tribune that they are relieved of a "burden" after France Total Oil Co. erected permanent schools structures.

Bor Public headteacher poses for a photo in front of one the classrooms blocks funded by France Total Oil Co. in Bor twon on Monday Jan. 11, 2010 (Photo By Philip Thon Aleu - ST) As part of community support programs in Jonglei state, the French oil exploring company, Total, funds a number of projects including schools.

Implemented by Intersos Humanitarian Organization, the 12 months project yielded two classroom blocks and four classrooms each by November 29, 2009 as the only permanent learning structures in Hai Machuor, Bor Town.

Also in a show of progress, diplomats visiting state capital Bor are occasional led to see these blocks at Bor Public Primary School.

2009 enrollment for this school reached 1, 470 children, according to records provided to the Sudan Tribune by Gabriel Panchol Anyang, the head teacher. While there are 10 teachers paid by the government. Another 11 teachers work voluntarily and thus reduce the teacher-pupil ratio to about 1:73.

"This number [of teachers] is too low," said Panchol adding "we talk to the government but they say 'there is no budget'."

Started as a private nursery school in 2006, Bor Public Primary became community-owned in 2007, the head teacher, who is also a founder, says adding that "I never had enough funds." The state government then registered it in 2009 - few months after securing construction project from Intersos Humanitarian Organization with funding from Total.

As the custom with government supported schools here, there is no authorized tuition fee. However, Nursery pupils pay registration fee "to motivate their voluntary teacher," the school administrator says.

Like other community and state government schools in Jonglei, classrooms were made of mud and grass-thatched. In some cases, children leant under trees. The collapsing temporary structures, however, now serves as classroom for nursery school children. But the construction of eight classrooms is tremendous achievement, the head teacher observed.

"Total [Oil Company] has done a great job," Panchol says while standing besides the school's sign post. "The burden is lifted from the community. We appreciate it," he added.

The school is on vacation, but children from nearby families who also learn here spend day time here playing football. A primary pupil identified as John says "that class is nice, window does disturb during lesson" in response to whether learning has improved since construction was complete. A woman fetching from the school hand pump borehole told the Sudan Tribune that she feel relieved when she see her child attending lessons in "a better building".

Total Oil Company is resuming exploration activities in Jonglei after halting its activities in 1983 following the outbreak of civil war. Pending security certainty in the restive state and arrangements with Southern Sudan government, Total Investment in Block B that covers large part of Jonglei state is viewed by local people as a way to change poor health, education and transport facilities.