THE DIARY FROM SOUTH SUDAN (6)

– Education to children and aid of school supplies –

[Original by Takaki IMAI, Manager for Humanitarian Assistance and Peace-Building Group (March 6, 2018); Translated by K. Adachi]

I went to Juba in South Sudan on November 23, 2017, listened to the internally displaced people in refugee camps, and gave medical and educational aid. I will report the local situations and our activities in this series, “The Diary from South Sudan.”

The 13th day: 5th of December (Tuesday)

Distribution of school supplies and sanitary goods at Camp 2

Today we are going to distribute school supplies in Mangaten refugee Camp 2. We began at 8 o’clock in the morning when we received school supplies such as notebooks from the stationary wholesaler near Konyo Konyo market, and then loaded them into a minivan, filling it up to the ceiling.

A girl and her younger brother received school supplies.

Two staff members from the Relief and Reconstruction Committee (RRC) of the South Sudan government were also present for today’s distribution. We had a brief meeting among ourselves before the distribution. Our group included Mr. Pouchi, the principal of the school, two teachers, Mr. Gabriel, the camp leader, the two staff members of RRC, Ms. Christine from JVC, and me. I explained about the activities of JVC in Mangaten so far, the purpose and quantity of the distribution today, and the target number of children.

The overview of today’s distribution is as follows.

<Distribution of school supplies>

  • Target number of children: 500 people
  • Content of distribution (per 1 child): 5 notebooks /3 pencils/ 2 ballpoint pens/ 1 eraser/ 1 pencil sharpener (2 for upper classes)

<Distribution of sanitary goods for female students mainly in upper classes>

  • Target number of children: 200 people
  • Content of distribution (per 1 child): 4 packages of sanitary goods

Each of the principal, the camp leader, and the staff of RRC gave us greetings after my explanation. The principal told us, “This school has not been supported by anyone. This is the first time.” The camp leader gave us words of gratitude referring to JVC activities (food aid, living wear aid) in Mangaten so far.

After that, the distribution finally started. The teachers’ office was set as the distribution center and teachers called in the children from upper classes who were waiting in the classroom. Children would be called in one by one and given their supplies.

There were many children who weren’t in the classroom even though their names were on the list of 500 target children prepared by the school. It appears there are many children who show their faces but don’t actually attend classes because of reasons such as that they cannot buy school supplies. Since the teachers instructed children without notebooks to “make their families buy”, children from families who cannot afford notebooks end up not coming at all. One teacher grumbled, “However, unless we say something, every child comes to the school without having notebooks and it puts teachers in trouble.” The purpose of distribution of school supplies this time is to let those children who attend the school every day have their own notebooks.

School supplies being distributed.

It took 1.5 hours to finish. Today, the total number of children whom we were able to distribute to is 193 people. For the other 300 children, the principal says that he will call for students to come to the school and will complete the distribution within this month. We should visit again to confirm whether the distribution is completed and then whether the children who received school supplies are attending the school after New Year begins.

Next, we moved to the distribution of sanitary goods for girls, mainly those in the upper classes. Although we had some extra goods because there were targeted people who did not come to receive, we distributed the rest to other girls whose names were not on the name list but were waiting in the line to receive.

We talked a little with the girls who received school supplies because students in the upper classes of the elementary school are able to speak English.

Straightaway they complained, “Why don’t you distribute school bags?” When we answered that, “The cost of school bags is too expensive. The budget is not enough,” they had a good laugh.

We further asked, “The bags are incomparably costly comparing to notebooks and pencils. But you can study even if you don’t have bags, can’t you? But what happens if you don’t have notebooks?” The students answered, “Well we cannot study without a notebook.”

The distribution of school supplies by JVC in South Sudan.

When we told them that “that is why we are buying a lot of notebooks”, everyone said, “understood” with smiles. What good children!

The distribution finished in this way. Here is a video showing the distribution from today. Please watch it as well.

The 14th day: 6th of December (Wednesday)

[Today is the last day of our activity.]

To the elementary school in Camp 1

We are planning to support the school supplies for a target of 300 children in Camp 1. As per the discussion with DMI, the aid organization managing the school, the distribution to students will be conducted in January after Christmas holidays.

Children in Camp 1.

Because we could not meet any children last Saturday, November 25th, we are going to see a classroom today where children are studying. As we entered the classroom, students reacted to the camera I was holding and got so excited. They approached closer one after another by saying, “Take pictures!” As someone touched my hair and said, “The texture of this hair is different from our hairs,” the students rushed to touch my hair and I was mobbed.

We carried out the distribution of sanitary goods today. According to the list made by teachers, we conducted the distribution to 100 students in the upper classes. It included 4th year students, who were around 12 years old because they were late to attend elementary school, and some female junior high school students inside the camp. Since some girls of around the same age who were not on the list were also waiting in the queue (probably because they were not attending the school), we distributed the rest of the sanitary goods to them.

We will continue the distribution of school supplies after January 15th when the school resumes. Christine will take part from JVC.

In the business trip this time, we carried out the distribution of school supplies to make children attend the school in Camp 2. However, children will have to stop attending the school after they have used up all the distributed school supplies if there is no stable income in their homes. In order to prevent that, we are going to carry out the support of living improvement for mothers in the camp. I have again entered South Sudan from March 1st 2018 in order to take our activities to the next step. I will continue delivering the latest information about our activities in this blog.

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