July 2011 Updates
We hope you are enjoying your summer! Thank you for your generous support of our work in South Sudan — it's been a great year so far at the Marial Bai Secondary School, and we are delighted to share with you some news from the field.
The Republic of South Sudan: after decades of civil war, South Sudan finds freedom at last.
On July 9th, a declaration of independence was signed and the Republic of South Sudan became the world's newest nation. Our students - all 350 of them - were proud to celebrate their independence. Their generation will play an enormous role in rebuilding this war-torn area, and with your help, we are empowering these bright young men and women with the most important tool for the task: education.
Above: the Marial Bai Secondary School student body gathers for a group photo.
On April 5th, 2011, thousands of new students participated in our annual entrance examinations. Now that the school has been open for 3 years, word of the success and quality of our academic programs has spread, and the level of demand for admissions was the highest we've ever seen. The brightest students from hundreds of miles across the region were admitted, including nearly forty young women who will be attending high school for the very first time, as well as a group of students who had, until recently, been living in refugee camps in northern Sudan and eastern Africa. The successful referendum in January meant that many South Sudanese refugees were finally able to come home.
Growing Faculty & Strong Academics
Our teachers hail mostly from South Sudan, though we also have educators from Kenya and Uganda. A few teachers also function as school administrators, while others oversee after-school extracurricular programs and study halls. Our faculty will grow to 15 educators this year, aided by a partnership with the local government. Next year, the school will be at full capacity with nearly 500 students, and we want to ensure that all their academic needs are met and exceeded.
Above: Valentino, MBSS faculty and student leaders. Also supporting the school are three cooks, two watchmen, and two Southern Sudanese field staff members for the Foundation.
New dormitories for boarding students!
The Marial Bai Secondary School is the only high school for hundreds of miles, and many students travel great distances to attend class. To accommodate young men and women from all over the region, the Foundation has constructed two large dormitories that together house nearly 200 students. The girls' dorm - constructed in 2010 and watched over by teacher and 'dorm mother' Ms. Eunice Akoth Ochalla - offers an alternative to early marriage, and provides girls with a safe place to learn. Seeing the need to expand our housing program, we recently finished construction on a new boys' dorm as well. These shared rooms are equipped with bunk beds, linens, and storage space for clothing and personal items.
Left: local builders work on the new boys' dorm. Right: one of two buildings that make up the new dormitories.
We are excited to announce our new Student Government!
Students organized competitive, spirited and creative campaigns leading up to school-wide elections in April. The elected students are each in charge of a specific area of interest including health, sports, entertainment, the library, dorms, academics, food, religion, and classroom management.
Valentino meets regularly with student leaders; pictured here, he leads the group in team-building activities.
Expanded extracurricular programs
Drama club! Dedicated teacher and boys' dorm headmaster, Mr. Arnold Chitai Wandati, has also organized the school's first drama club. Members of the club, which meets every Wednesday, have recited poetry, performed songs and dance during school assemblies, and have even welcomed guests from the state's Ministry of Education with a performance.
Debate club! Mr. Simon Sendawula, our freshman English teacher, is in charge of the school's debate teams. While most debates are conducted in the classroom, Mr. Sendawula has also organized a school-wide debate each Friday during which students argue social and economic themes as well as political affairs. The split between north and south Sudan has fueled many great discussions for this lively group!
Above: students participate in sports practice on three of our many athletic fields.
Sports! With fields for soccer, volleyball, and netball (a game similar to basketball), the Marial Bai Secondary School is now acclaimed for its competitive athletics program and quality resources. Our volleyball teams - both boys' and girls' - are the best in the region, and our soccer team is currently undefeated!
A bright future
One of our major goals this year is to install a solar energy system at the educational center. This is a huge undertaking in a remote village like Marial Bai, but we're determined. Renewable and planet-friendly solar power will illuminate our classrooms, dorms, the library, and all of our other facilities. It will allow the school to remain open during evenings for programs like adult literacy classes, student study halls, and school plays. We already have a lot of momentum for our solar project, but we need your help!
The cost of independence
The tension in Sudan leading up to the South's independence has resulted in a dramatic increase in the cost of food, building materials, school supplies, equipment, and fuel, and has hugely affected our operation costs at the school this year. We are hopeful that stability and peace will be restored following the official separation of states, but it is certain that costs of all goods in South Sudan will continue to rise. In this historic yet trying moment, we need your support. Please donate today.
If you'd like to set up a monthly recurring donation to help sustain the school automatically, click here.
In the brand new country of South Sudan, the Marial Bai Secondary School offers students the opportunity to help carry their new nation forward, and gives them a chance to create their own hopeful futures. In the words of Moses Wol Deng, a teacher from Marial Bai: “A school like this has simply never existed in southern Sudan, until now.” Our Foundation aims to be a leader in the effort to rebuild education in South Sudan. We have made great progress, and in the face of new challenges, we know that by working together we can achieve so much more.
On behalf of the Foundation and all of our students in Marial Bai, thank you for supporting education in South Sudan. Our work would not be possible without you.
The Valentino Achak Deng Foundation