The Acholi people are indigenous to Lobone. But, because of the civil war between the Sudan government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, thousands of people fled their homes, with many going to refugee camps in Uganda.
In 2001, JRS was invited by the Diocese of Torit to assist the community in both providing quality basic education and in pastoral activities.
After the signing of a peace accord between the Government of Southern Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement in January 2005, the indigenous Acholi from Lobone started to return home voluntarily. The fear of staying in troubled northern Uganda, mixed with a longing to return home, prompted many to return.
Guided by its mission to accompany, serve and advocate for refugees, JRS has been supporting education and peace-building activities in Lobone.
JRS is the only international non-government organization currently working in the area, and it supports educational activities from pre-school, through primary, secondary to adult literacy, as well as teacher training and peace building/conflict resolution.
The new Government of Southern Sudan has put a high priority on developing the education sector, but there are major challenges. At the time the peace agreement was signed, the vast majority of primary schools were operating under trees, and there were almost no trained teachers – any individual in a village who could read or write a little would gather children under the trees informally every now and again to try and teach them their ABCs. None of these teachers received salaries, and many had only completed two or three years of primary schooling.
The JRS team has mobilized the returnees as teachers. A good harmony has been created, in that the Senior Four pupils (who were supported by JRS in 2007 to sit for their exams in Uganda) were interviewed and appointed as primary teachers this year to teach their brothers and sisters. These newly recruited teachers were given the basic training in order to become effective teachers.
JRS is grateful to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) for its on-going support of this important project for recent returnees in Lobone, Southern Sudan.