Educating Girls in South Sudan

Debbie DeVoe, CRS regional information officer, East Africa, submitted this post.

Sudan student

17-year-old Ayen Deng plans to become a surgeon after finishing primary school, attending high school and graduating from university. Photo by Debbie DeVoe

Yesterday I met Ayen Deng, a 17-year-old attending her third year at a boarding school built with CRS’ assistance in a remote village in South Sudan. Even though most families across the country relegate their daughters to the fields and cooking huts, Ayen’s parents value education. Somehow they found the money needed for the mattress, washing tub, cup, plate, spoon and personal items to send Ayen to Anyidi Girls’ School. The education itself is free, with the Government of South Sudan covering the salaries of the nine teachers and CRS providing food donated by the U.S. government for meals.

“I love going to school so much because my future is my choice,” Ayen says, who is just starting sixth grade. “If I wasn’t in school I would just dig in the garden and cook. Now I’m reading and getting an education.”

Ayen stays in school even though the village of Anyidi is threatened by men raiding cattle and even kidnapping children to care for the cows.

“They cannot take me because I am so big, but they can take the small ones or kill the teachers,” Ayen explains. “At night we must stay quietly. We cannot play.”

Her desire for knowledge is greater than these fears and greater than the discomfort the girls face. A broken grinding mill means they eat chunky boiled sorghum instead of the traditional starch dish made out of flour. There is also only dorm space for about 75 of the 260 girls; the rest must sleep outside or in the classrooms.

But in a country where few women are literate and most are expected to tend to their families instead of their minds, Ayen is thankful for the opportunity to receive an education. Catholic Relief Services is now building its third boarding school in Bor County to offer additional girls this chance.

– Debbie DeVoe

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