The civil war in Sudan killed two and a half million people and displaced nearly six million South Sudanese between 1983 and 2005. Despite gaining independence in 2011, South Sudan experienced tragic violence when internal conflict broke out in December 2013. In the six months since the violence began, international companies, government agencies, and aid providers have left the country due to security reasons, eliminating jobs, halting development, and closing schools.
In response to the conflict during the 2014 school year, the VAD Foundation:
• Increased student enrollment by 44%
• Tripled our female enrollment
• Hired an additional six teachers
• Began solar installation providing jobs to locals
• Issued micro loans to female heads of household in Marial Bai
The VAD Foundation creates quality education opportunities in South Sudan through the Marial Bai Secondary School (MBSS), which was constructed in 2009. MBSS is the highest ranking school nationwide that is free for students to attend.
In South Sudan, a girl spends on average six years enrolled in school. Culturally, young women carry much of the daily labor load of farming, cooking, washing, and fetching water and firewood. Most South Sudanese girls drop out or never enroll in school due to marriage, pregnancy, and duties at home, resulting in less than 1% studying at a secondary level. In order to increase enrollment and opportunities, the VAD Foundation works with the community to bridge the gap between traditional female roles in the community and the benefit of equal education for girls. MBSS currently houses and educates more female students at the secondary level than any other school in South Sudan.
I am in school because I want to get a better job. I don’t want to have the same life as before and I want to increase the quality of my life. Normally a day starts for me at 7am. I get up and bathe but take no tea or breakfast. After school I read and sometimes wash my clothes or hang out and play with other girls. Because I live on the teachers’ compound I do not have the same responsibilities as other girls who live with their families or husbands. Here I am responsible for myself. It is difficult for girls though. Boys have more freedom and girls are the ones responsible for everything. Boys expect everything from you. I would like that girls have equal chance at education. -Mary (3rd year)
The special setting of the MBSS dormitories, allows a young woman to solely concentrate on caring only for herself and her education. In order to remove household duties a girl would have outside of school, cooks oversee the campus nutrition program that feeds all students and staff at MBSS, there is a well yards from the dormitory along with a staff member paid to fetch water. At MBSS she can concentrate on learning. The dorm mothers, visitors, and community members provide special mentoring and act as resources the female students can call on for support individually or in a group session.
“When I was born, conditions here were bad due to the war. My mother would go into the forest to find fruit to feed us, since there was nothing else to eat. I then lived in Khartoum and Kenya away from the violence. I received word earlier this year that my mother was not doing well so I decided to return to this area to be closer to her. When I returned and saw her for the first time, my heart broke. She was living on nothing with no one supporting her. She was forced to eat bark off the trees. I was able to buy her some tea and sorghum, but I worry about her constantly. Sometimes I wish I had been born a boy. As a boy it is easier. I want to pursue my education about all else because I want to be educated so that I can help my mother and make a better life for both her and me.” -Titiana (2013 Graduate)
In supporting the VAD Foundation, you promote peace in the region by educating a young nation, investing in community-driven projects, and empowering locals to provide for their community through sustainable agriculture, public health, and clean water projects. To invest in girls’ education is also to invest in preventing disease, decreasing poverty, and lessening violence. When a woman prospers, her family prospers—when families prosper, whole communities prosper. Donate at www.vadfoundation.org to change a student’s life and make a lasting impact in South Sudan.