South Sudan: a role model for students and teachers
04 May 2012

JRS support to the formal education sector spans across 25 primary schools, such as Iriya Primary School, above, four secondary schools and 15 functional adult literacy centres – serving a total of about 15,000 people, Nimule, South Sudan. (Ana Livi/Jesuit Refugee Service)
Esther’s dream is to study to Masters degree level, and to move into higher education teaching or education sector planning.
Nimule, 4 May 2012 – Esther is a role model for her community. A secondary education teacher of commerce and accounting at Fulla Secondary School, Nimule, and a mother of three, she exudes happiness, confidence and professionalism. However, as a former refugee, the journey to this point has not been easy. She attributes her success to the support of JRS over a period of nearly 12 years, from 2000 to 2011.

Esther was born in a tiny village in Pageri Payam (district) in Eastern Equatoria State, South Sudan. One of six children (although two later died), she was forced at an early age into exile in Adjumani district, northern Uganda as the civil war in Sudan intensified. Once in Adjumani, Esther settled into primary school and studied hard.

However, in 1995, just as she was about to sit the important primary school examinations, her life was disrupted again as her mother left home and her parents separated. Esther was left to support her father by caring for her three siblings and the family’s financial constraints meant that Esther's father could no longer afford to send her to school. Esther stayed at home for two months, but then after raising enough money, she managed to pass her exams.

A long road to secondary school. Esther's next challenge was to find a way to attend secondary school. She was lucky to be supported by her uncle and spent two fruitful years advancing her education. However circumstances changed again when Esther became pregnant at a young age and had to drop out. Needing support, she returned to Nimule, South Sudan, where her mother had relocated.

In 2000, Esther was finally able to resume her education. She joined Fulla Secondary School in Nimule and worked in her spare time cleaning the school or cutting firewood to pay her school fees. It was at that time she first learned of JRS, as they used to buy her firewood for the running of their workshop programmes. JRS also supported education at the school through the provision of stationary, textbooks and supplementary funds. In 2002, Esther was successful in completing senior four and passed her exams with the second-highest grade possible.

Funding challenges. A competent and hard-working student, Esther was noticed by a local group of Sisters. In exchange for some household chores, they provided for her basic needs and supported her with the fees required to attend an advanced secondary school in Masindi, Uganda. Unfortunately, after just one term, the Sisters left Nimule and were unable to continue supporting her.

All was not lost, however, as the school headmistress recognised her potential and arranged to support the completion of her studies in return for taking care of the school chickens. At last, in 2004, Esther graduated from secondary school – a real achievement given the many obstacles in her way.

A golden opportunity for teacher training. Esther returned to Nimule, believing that this was now the end of her academic work, when a golden opportunity presented itself. JRS advertised teacher vacancies at Fulla Secondary School and the organisation was inspired by her dedication. She was accepted, and after a period of teaching, JRS supported Esther to undertake further training at the National Teachers College in Unyama, Uganda, followed by a Bachelors degree in Business Education at Ndejje University, Uganda.

A role model for students, she has been back at Fulla teaching since May 2011. "I do not know how my life would be without JRS support. My life has been positively shaped by JRS", she said. 

Esther’s dream is to study to Masters degree level, and to move into higher education teaching or education sector planning.

"JRS should continue to offer this kind of support to other people who are in situations like mine, especially women" she said. 

Andebo Pax Pascal
Secondary Education Coordinator, Jesuit Refugee Service Nimule

Jesuit Refugee Service has been operating in Nimule since 1997, supporting a community of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and war-affected persons. Later, the project was expanded to support the populations of returnees who came back from exile in neighbouring countries such as Uganda and Kenya after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005. JRS has trained around 30 secondary school teachers during its operations there. JRS support in the formal education sector spans across 25 primary schools, four secondary schools and 15 functional literacy centres– serving in total of about 15,000 people.