In January, Southern Sudan will hold a referendum to choose independence from or unity with the north. The conduct, result, and aftermath of the vote will determine the direction of Southern Sudan’s future and the prospects for sustained peace in the region. During this uncertain period, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) continues to accompany the people of Southern Sudan with programs that make schools the heart of new and restored communities, as focal points for hope for a better future and centers for peace building activities.
After a generation of civil war, the signing of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement on January 9, 2005, ended armed hostilities between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and the Government of Sudan.
During the civil war, Southern Sudanese refugees eagerly sought education for their children in affirmation of their hope for a better future amidst desperate circumstances. Parents in camps Uganda and Kenya understood that without education their children would become a lost generation. The schools operated by JRS in these camps gave the Southern Sudanese valuable basic skills and a sense of dignity and normalcy during their displacement. When return to Southern Sudan became possible, many families delayed their departure until the end of the school year, and sought assurance that their children’s education could continue “back home.” Working with UN agencies and the Southern Sudanese government, JRS anticipated these needs and worked to renovate and staff schools in locations targeted for repatriation.
JRS saw a clear need to continue the educational projects it had begun in the refugee camps so as to meet the needs of returnees. At the invitation of returnee communities, JRS began education projects in and around the towns of Nimule, Lobone, Kajo Keji, and Yei. The trust created through many years of previous interaction has allowed JRS to foster community involvement in the schools, including school management committees, parent teacher associations, and cultural activities. JRS considers these programs an opportunity for returned refugees to experience the full benefits of peace while preparing for an independent future.
“Education in Southern Sudan is important because it is through education that we can sustain peace,” said JRS Lobone Project Director Lam Leone Ferem.
Learn more about the JRS programs in Southern Sudan here.