Hope for Sudan’s Next Generation
by Michelle Scott*
During times of war, young people often miss out on the opportunity to receive an education. Sudan is one such country that has been plagued with wars for approximately 40 of its 50 years of independence. Many young people in both Darfur and South Sudan where UMCOR works have had few opportunities to go to school.
UMCOR is working in both locations to change that. "When children have nowhere to go, they are exposed," explains Jane Ohuma, head of UMCOR's office in Sudan. Children spending their idle time in the streets are vulnerable to child labor or even to being drafted into an army. "Our goal is to get children out of streets and into classrooms," explains Ohuma.
New opportunities to go to school are popping up throughout South Sudan and South Darfur. Many of them are thanks to UMCOR's efforts.
Through skills training centers in South Darfur, UMCOR is helping those who, because of war and displacement, have no education or marketable skills. Young men learn carpentry and masonry. Women learn to sew clothes and tailor and how to process food so it can be sold in the market. All the graduates are given the supplies they need to begin working immediately.
One young graduate tells how his village was burned and his family's cattle were stolen. They fled to Neem camp in South Darfur. He recalls he had nothing to do at the camp—no work and no school—while he watched his family stay hungry because the food rations they received were not sufficient. Now that he has completed the carpentry program and he has his own tools he is able to work and help his family's financial situation.
This is a success story that is told many times over because of the three skills training centers UMCOR constructed in South Darfur through funding from Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church.
Primary Schools in South Darfur
Young students sing songs of welcome as a delegation from the US enters their classrooms in South Darfur. UMCOR built their classrooms, provided the students with notebooks, pens and other supplies through school kits, and trained their teachers. By the end of 2007, UMCOR will have constructed 60 temporary classrooms and constructed or repaired 54 permanent classrooms, giving thousands of students an opportunity to go to school when previously there was none.
Schools Where Once There Were None
In 2006, UMCOR began working in South Sudan, a region very different from Darfur. This lush region of Sudan is beautiful, but has a dark history. South Sudan has spent approximately 40 of the last 50 years at war with Northern Sudan. The decades of war have left the South scarred. Following the peace agreement, UMCOR opened offices in South Sudan and began building schools. Many have never had the opportunity to go to school because of the ongoing war.
Ramshackle schools were set up as people returned home from refugee camps in neighboring countries. Children meet under mango trees or in unsteady shacks with a scrap of wood painted black as their chalk board. Classes are taught by teachers who make up for their lack of education with a passion to give the next generation the things they lacked—stability and hope for a better future.
UMCOR is working with communities to build concrete and brick schools that will last for a long time. These new school buildings are equipped with proper chalkboards, desks and a good zinc roof to give children a better learning environment. A borehole and latrine are also added to the property to ensure the health of the students and surrounding community. UMCOR also offers training for the teachers to help them do their jobs more effectively.
When asked what they wanted to be when they grew up, students in South Sudan responded with dreams, once thought impossible: "I want to be a teacher." "I want to be a doctor." "I want to be president." Education is often seen as the key to the future. UMCOR's education programs in Sudan are working to give children and young people whose opportunities have been limited by war a way to look forward with hope.
How You Can Help
*Scott is the Executive Secretary of Communications for UMCOR