We Want To Do Our Exams!
Students around the world mostly fear doing examinations but our primary and secondary students in the Nuba Mountains are actually praying for them to come!
It is two years in a row now that a total of 262 class 8 students from our three BGRRF/DoE Nuba primary schools (in Gidel, Karga and Kauda) have been frustrated from sitting for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exams. “We have been struggling for nine years to finish our primary education and now that we have made it to the end we are not able to fulfil our dream of getting the KCPE certificate. We feel neglected and forgotten by the authorities and it seems that no one cares about us and our future,” said one student. The war in the Nuba Mountains and its associated political problems have made it impossible for the Kenya exams to be brought to the Nuba as in the previous years. This is not just hard for the students but also for the dedicated teachers from Kenya and Uganda and the local Nuba teachers. “We have worked hard to help the students – even having extra tuition classes on Saturdays for the KCPE candidates and it all just seems wasted. It is heart-breaking for them and for us too!” said one teacher.
Everyone in the school started crying
A similar story is repeated by our 60 students in form 4. They had studied hard all year and in early October travelled by lorry for 10 long hours, got bogged in the mud on the way, managed to dig themselves out, reached Yida refugee camp and then had only one day to wait for the plane to take them to Kakuma Refugee Camp to sit for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams. On the morning of their flight they were told they couldn’t go because of high insecurity in Lokichoggio, the place they were to land. The South Sudanese authorities wouldn’t let them get on the plane until there was absolute assurance for their safety but the Kenyan authorities couldn’t and wouldn’t give that guarantee. Our Bishop Macram said he didn’t want any of our students’ or teachers’ lives to be at risk and made the difficult and final decision of saying they couldn’t take the chance of going into an unsafe area. When they returned to St Joseph’s Secondary school in the Nuba Mountains a few days later and it was announced what happened ALL the students in forms 1, 2 and 3 burst into tears. “What have we done to deserve this?” cried Magdalia. “This makes us to lose hope and then we are forced to leave our families in search of an education” says Daud.
In fact, thousands of students who can’t get enrolled in a primary or secondary school because there are simply not enough schools and trained teachers leave the Nuba each year and usually go alone to South Sudan or Kenya or Uganda and even to Khartoum in the north of their country Sudan. They risk their lives and then face huge challenges in a strange country so far from their home.
Getting an education in the Nuba Mountains is as hard as climbing Mt Everest. There are so many obstacles! Many children and teenagers have to convince their unschooled parents to let them go. Their parents would prefer that the children stay at home to help grow the sorghum and maize crops, do weeding, supervise the grazing of animals, collect water and firewood and help repair the fences, walls and grass-thatched roof of their houses. If parents do give permission to go to school then many students, especially girls, are told to find the money to pay the school fees themselves because the majority of parents don’t have a lot of money. These pupils have to work hard on weekends and during the school holidays try to sell mangoes or collect firewood or do other such jobs to save enough Sudanese pounds to pay their school fees, buy their uniform and also buy their exercise books and pens and pencils. Also, there are students who only have one parent alive because too many mothers and fathers have died in the war. It is even more difficult for these ‘orphans’ to get an education.
Sisters, friends and friends of Nuba, you get the picture of determined Nuba students. We give each one of you our heartfelt thanks for your faithful, prayerful support over the years and for your generous donations to the Nuba Mountains Education Fund over these past years.
‘…step up and shine’
In October 2017, it was discovered that the Bishop Gassis Relief and Rescue Foundation (BGRRF), the Foundation we work under, is in financial crisis. The crisis means drastic cut backs in the services provided through our health, education and pastoral programs. Here’s an example – only 9 of the 35 expatriate teachers from Kenya and Uganda who have come to the Nuba Mountains in the past to work in our schools will be funded in 2018.
The greatest point of stress for BGRRF is finding donors to finance the pastoral personnel. These are the Sisters, the Priests, Brother and Deacon who have been supporting the education, health and pastoral work in the Nuba Mountains. Funds for their day-to-day care and ministry (their food, transport, medical needs, etc) are simply not there. Without the presence and support of the pastoral personnel in the field, health care, education and pastoral care will be very difficult to sustain. A significant donation from the Education Nuba Mountains Fund will be used to enable the pastoral personnel to continue their important ministry. Again, we thank our many generous benefactors.
Sadly, the Nuba people are used to adversity. They have survived years of war. While the financial crisis is devastating many of the SDC-CTTI graduates, 43 men and 7 women, will reach deeply into their reserves of determination and resilience and ‘step up and shine’. We have great hope that the schools will continue to thrive with these locally-trained Nuba teachers.
*Photos taken by Cathy Solano and used with permission