South Sudan: Joseph and Jerica, A Tale of the Primary Eight Heroes

02 December 2021|Michael Kinaka, SJ

A tale of heroes

In my contemplative prayer of the incarnation, I imagine the Holy Trinity gazing at the education situation in Maban.

I see the three persons desiring the children of God on this part of our universe to have access to education, to experience quality education. Many children in Maban, both in the refugee populations and host communities, still struggle with access to education. Many have no place to call a school.  Fortunately, efforts at meeting this Trinitarian desire are being explored by different partners of goodwill such as JRS among others.

A few years ago, JRS identified the need to support education for the marginalized communities that host refugees in Maban. Uffra community was identified and supported in setting up some simple school physical infrastructure, provision of reading materials, incentives to teachers, and feeding program for the learners.  Though humble, the center is a source of hope and joy to many. Here, the youthful people of the South Sudan have a chance to dream

Our host government driven by the need to accommodate learners of ‘advanced age’ came up with a curriculum that accelerates the duration spent in school such that one takes only half the number of years taken to complete the primary level. This Accelerated Learning Program takes four years instead of the customary eight years.

Recently, the first lot of the primary eight candidates in Uffra School sat for their final examinations and hurray!!! two out of twenty passed the test.

Believe me, this is one of the greatest achievements and blessings we have received this year. Mabruk /congrats to Joseph and Jerica, our two boys who have made us proud. They now have a success story to tell.
 Scholastic Kinaka Michael, SJ (right) and Jerica the hero (Left), exchange joy and words of encouragement during the celebration held at Jerica’s family.
Scholastic Kinaka Michael, SJ (right) and Jerica the hero (Left), exchange joy and words of encouragement during the celebration held at Jerica’s family.
As good sons of the soil, Jerica, and Joseph were celebrated by the whole village for proving to their peers that it is possible to excel given the opportunity. Indeed this is a good pace for the education journey in this context. Jerica’s family organized a more elaborate celebration that gathered their son’s teachers, some JRS staff and fellow community members into this dance of thanksgiving.

I had a hearty chat with Jerica “…how do you feel today?… I am so happy. Why are you happy Jerica?… Because of salvation.  Jerica’s thoughts on what the celebration made him feel as well as what they meant to him exude gratitude. Despite his tender age, he is focused to continue with his education, to say no to ‘early forced’ marriage and to become a man for others. Possibly  Jerica’s use of the word ‘salvation’  as a summary of his feelings not only implied his strong faith in God who saves but also referred to what he regards as the purpose of education. We would all agree with him that education liberates us from ignorance and other ills that inhibit our fraternal coexistence.

I take the celebration to honour Jerica’s achievement as indicative of a cultural shift in favor of education. Here is why! The elaborate communal celebration witnessed in his honour are customarily held to mark the marriage of young girls and boys. Interestingly in Jerica’s case, the same dance by the same community was made on the account of his educational achievement.

This new cultural attitude towards education seems to be a great potential in engaging the future of education in Maban.

Kinaka, Jerica’s Mother (second left), Jerica (in the middle) and members of his extended family who joined in the celebration.
Kinaka, Jerica’s Mother (second left), Jerica (in the middle) and members of his extended family who joined in the celebration.

Days later when I met with Jerica, he informed me that his classmate, Joseph, had travelled to The Sudan in search of a place in form 1 (secondary senior 1).  Jerica on his part has joined a nearby school. The school is quite distant and he has to walk for about two hours to reach it. We at JRS are very proud of these learners. They are our heroes as they are to their community.

As the Trinity gazes upon the earth and decides to send one of them to help the world, we feel called to give ourselves more to accompany our young people in their education journey. They still need our support to continue walking on this path in search of knowledge.

Shukran

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