Southern Sudan: First ever visit to previously inaccessible schools
01 February 2010

The mountain range that surrounds Lobone at dusk. Although JRS assists communities in remote mountain areas with education no one ever managed to visit them. (Christian Fuchs/JRS)
“This is a first step towards development and progress and a sign of hope for the future of Southern Sudan.”

Lobone, 1 February 2010 —  Four JRS staff members for the first time went on a challenging 15km hike to visit two JRS supported schools that had never been visited before, located in the mountains around Lobone in early February.

“Although JRS has been supporting the two schools in Isore and Aker since 2007, no staff member was ever able to go there, largely due to insecurity and lack of infrastructure,” says Henry Langoya, Primary Education Coordinator and one of the hikers. “There are no roads in this area, only steep valleys and high mountains reaching up to 2,300m, which makes the area almost inaccessible,” he adds.

The team was warmly welcomed by the community of Isore, a village with around 3,000 inhabitants which forms part of Lobone Sub-county. During the meeting with the community, JRS staff highlighted the importance of education, especially in regard to girls, and the involvement of parents in education. The team also talked about peace-building and pastoral care. The local chapel leader was provided with a liturgical calendar, a missal and a hymnbook to help them guide their community in prayer and liturgical services. “We were impressed by the large turnout in Isore,” said Bernhard Knorn SJ, JRS Pastoral Assistant.

The community leaders and parents thanked JRS for accompanying and assisting them with the education of their children. They also pledged to continue working with JRS. Although Isore is located in an isolated mountain area, the two schools provide basic education for over 440 children from P1 to P5, of which almost half are girls. “This is a first step towards development and progress and a sign of hope for the future of Southern Sudan,” says Mr Langoya. However, each school only operates with four untrained volunteer teachers who are not yet on the government payroll.

 “People here have no access to basic services, such as healthcare and education, mainly because the local government officials have no means to deliver these services,” says Julius Lapat, JRS Peace Education Coordinator in Lobone. “Insecurity and the lack of law are another major challenge,” he adds.

During the civil war, the mountains around Lobone provided a safe haven for many Sudanese forced to flee their homes. In 2008 the security situation considerably improved, enabling JRS to extend its services to communities in the mountains, collaborating closely with the head teachers and the school management committee representatives who would regularly come to the JRS office. Since then, JRS has supported them through the renovation of temporary school buildings, in-service teacher training and the provision of scholastic materials.

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Angelika Mendes
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