Hungry to learn

  • The students’ motivation in South Sudan is not satisfied due to a very poor educational system.
  • Children attend an English class in a small school in Maban region, South Sudan. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran

    Hunger in South Sudan is a very popular truth. And the poor quality of education is another, surely not so well-known. A system that is based on a senseless repetition of words, where teachers do not show enough capacity and students do not have good education materials, it is sad to see the level of learning in classrooms ends up being insignificant, mostly in rural areas.
    This is why the words from a young student from a very small school in Bunj, in Maban region, are really shocking:

    – There are two things I really like in the school.
    – Which are?
    – Learning English, because I will be able to speak with foreigners who come to see us.
    – And the second?
    – This cup of sorghum I have in my hands.

    It is overwhelming the motivation that children have to go to school. Apart from the desire to eat, they are hungry to know more and more. But if there is not a rapid and substantial improvement in educational resources and teachers’ capacity, the great opportunity of turning an entire generation into the hope of changing this country will be missed.

    You can read more about it in an article recently published in SEGRE newspaper (in Catalan language).

    No breakfast

  • Six million people, half of the population, suffer food insecurity in South Sudan.
  • A child drags a big branch to the kitchen in Aber primary school, South Sudan. Photo by Albert González Farran – WTI

    A seven-year-old boy drags a huge branch towards his school in Aber, a town in the Lakes region, in South Sudan. It’s a sweet picture because it’s an obligation for all students to bring firewood every morning, before starting classes. Teachers put this condition to the students to let the cook prepare their breakfast, which is often the only meal in the whole day.

    But this young boy doesn’t know he won’t have breakfast today. It has been raining all morning in Aber and the firewood is now wet. The cook can’t use it and has decided not to work.

    Nobody complains. Everyone go to class and tomorrow they’ll have better luck.

    Waiting for the best luck

  • Health care is non-existent in many rural areas of South Sudan and people just surrender to the fate.
  • Nyakong Kiir reacts as she assists her daughter-in-law Nyanom, after being infected with malaria in Padding, South Sudan. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran – AFP

    In Padding, a small remote village in South Sudan, inside a shelter still under construction, there is a crowd of people surrounding a woman lying on the ground. Her name is Nyanom, she is 26 years old and suffers a severe malaria infection. She came to Padding from an even smaller town, few miles away, and malaria surprised her when she was in the market. People dragged her to the hut and are now watching her expectantly, to see how her infection evolves. That’s all they can do, apart from a couple of pills that the local healer gave her. There is nothing more to do. The nearest clinic is ten hours on foot and the only thing left is to wait for the Nyanom’s body to survive.
    This is the fate of those hundreds of thousands living in the rural South Sudan. With a life expectancy that the civil war and the economic crisis has reduced to 56 years, the South Sudanese just surrender themselves to the fate.
    On this last occasion, Nyanom survived. She spent the night in a villager’s house and the next day she was able to walk back home, to wait for the next encounter.

    Where are the men?

  • Women in South Sudan assume the hardest daily work, such as fetching water, bringing food at home and cooking it, collecting firewood and working in farms.
  • Nyibol Lual, a 13-year-old girl, helps her family to prepare the land for cultivation in Panthau, South Sudan. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran – AFP

    In Panthau, a small village in Northern Bahr al Gazhal, South Sudan, I see three distant people weeding their land. It’s noon, the sun is strong, it’s very hot and the humidity really high. When I get closer, I realise they are three women, a mother and her two older daughters, who are preparing the family land for the coming rains. All three are sweating and breathing heavily. After introducing myself, I ask them:
    –Where are the men of the family?
    –There! –they say pointing two hundred metres away.
    Yes. There they are, resting under the shade of a tree.
    I ask them:
    –Why are you not working with the women?
    –Because it’s too hot! –they firmly answer.
    –Of course… (no more comments).

    No other choice

  • Women in South Sudan have the great responsibility to give birth in hard conditions and raise families with little resources.
  • Txata Male, a mother of three children, breastfeeds her newborn baby Talata (4 days old) outside her shelter in Dangaji, a village in Maban, South Sudan. © Albert González Farran

    Txata is a mother of three children. She gave birth few days ago in Dangaji, a very remote village in Maban county, in South Sudan, where health services are really limited.
    She lives with a disability in her right side of the body, but she keeps sustaining her family as best as she can. Her husband is away most of the time, and she is the only one to provide food, water and shelter to her children and her elder mother.
    Life of women and mothers in South Sudan, as in many countries in Africa, is greatly tough. They assume the hardest work, even in their late pregnancies or when they need to look after newborn babies. There are no other choices. Lives are under their responsibility. And this is something totally hard to assume. Too hard.

    According to WHO, South Sudan has one of the highest rates of maternal and neonatal mortality in the world, apart from the shocking rate of under-five mortality (10%).

    For more information, read a report in El País newspaper (in Spanish language).

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