School Where There Are No Schools
by Jeff Ritchie
We started our week in great anticipation of what we would see at the camps today. Last year a young teacher named John Jock, who fled to Ethiopia along with other refugees from South Sudan, developed a project to meet the lack of non-formal education in the camps. Other NGOs are doing this as well, but the needs are overwhelming.
So on behalf of the Presbytery of Eastern Upper Nile, John Jock sent The Outreach Foundation a proposal to provide preschool children with pencils, notebooks, blackboards and chalk. Volunteer teachers came forward, and John, a trained teacher with almost a decade of experience in the leading school of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (before the civil war) put together the curriculum. Adult literacy classes began as well.
Three churches in the camps became the school grounds for this project which started last August with no support. The Outreach Foundation prayed and worked to find sponsors for as much of the program as we could. Today we saw the impact of our partnership.
Children, even as young as this three year-old, are learning their ABC’s. An adult woman told us, “Now I know how to write my name!” The volunteer teachers have a great sense of accomplishment that they are making a difference. One teacher had on the back of his t-shirt, “Educate a child, educate a community.”
The schools lack so much. More need to be opened in areas of the camps that are far from the existing schools. But they have begun, and The Outreach Foundation is part of rebuilding hope among the children and adult learners in the camps in Gambella, Ethiopia.
Just before I left on the trip we received word of a donation that will enable the schools to supply school uniforms to the children, thus instilling a sense of pride in them that they are in a “real” school.
Thanks be to God for the education ministry of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan, a ministry that continues even in exile.
Associate Director for Mission