South Sudan: Nimule celebrates 15 years with JRS
17 September 2012

JRS beneficiaries carry the JRS Nimule closing ceremony banner as they walk to Mass. Rebeca Acedo/JRS
JRS's work on education and peace-building in the aftermath of the two-decade long war in Sudan has helped provide a foundation from which the community can now build.
Nimule, 14 September 2012 – The curtains finally came down on the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Nimule project last month as the entire community joined together to ensure a fitting end to the project. Present in Nimule for 15 years, the 24 August closing ceremony marked an important milestone in the history of JRS accompaniment, service and advocacy with refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in South Sudan.

JRS's work on education and peace-building in the aftermath of the two-decade long war in Sudan has helped provide a foundation from which the community can now build. Mr. Charles Mogga Idra, of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) field base in Nimule (formerly JRS staff), advised the community to "grasp the opportunity and maintain the work started by JRS."

Mr. Mogga called on investors to set up new learning institutions for children to receive quality education and supplement what the NGOs and the government are doing.

JRS first identified an unmet need in Nimule in 1997. Millions were displaced to other parts of Sudan or to neighbouring countries during the two-decade long war. JRS worked with IDPs in Nimule, but as the JRS Adjumani project in Uganda closed and peace dawned, former refugees started to return home looking to rebuild their lives. However infrastructure had been destroyed and educational services were severely lacking in Nimule. JRS stepped in to help build education provision and foster long-term peace.

During 2011, JRS Nimule served over 13,000 beneficiaries through its wide-ranging programmes.

A day of reflection

A procession from the JRS compound to the church marked the start of the day. Mass was conducted by the main celebrant, Fr. Richard O'Dwyer, SJ of the JRS Lobone project, assisted by the local parish priest, Fr.John Sebitt, and Ceaser Anzo also of the parish.

During Mass, the congregation was asked to reflect back on the successes achieved by the project, and to pray that the impacts continue to be felt long into the future. "We are called to show gratitude to God for all the good things we received from him in the course of serving our people and further acknowledge him as our creator" said Fr. Richard in his homily.

As the day progressed, singing and dancing formed the backdrop to the official closing ceremony at St. Patrick's Primary School, presided over by the Executive Director of the Madi Corridor Sub-county in Eastern Equatoria State. The Nimule Payam Education Supervisor, the County Director of Education, and former JRS beneficiaries were also in attendance.

"JRS has trained peace facilitators to solve problems which may occur in the community" said John Paul, the Peace Facilitators' Head Representative. "Creation of peace clubs has ensured the youth are not idle and has reduced conflict in the area" he continued.

The importance of the JRS contribution to sustainable livelihoods was not overlooked, and the building of ovens and the supply of agricultural seeds and tools to families were mentioned as important in ensuring self-reliance after the JRS exit.

JRS supported 25 primary schools and four secondary schools in Nimule in 2011. The impact of this educational support was clearly demonstrated earlier in 2012 when the results of the 2011 South Sudan Certificate in Secondary Education (SSCSE) were released. The top performing school in South Sudan was JRS-supported Fulla Secondary School in Nimule. The tenth best-performing girl also hailed from Fulla Secondary School. The attendance of girls at school has risen as a result of JRS provision of hygiene packs and counselling support.

As the day drew to a close, the words and support of the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Torit resonated with the audience. He sent his best wishes to JRS as the organisation looks to the future with confidence, turning its attention now to other parts of South Sudan where a greater need is observed.

JRS has been operating in Nimule, South Sudan, since 1997, supporting communities of IDPs and war-affected persons. Later, the project was expanded to support the populations of returnees who came back from exile in neighbouring countries such as Uganda and Kenya after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005. Education (primary, secondary and adult) as a way of promoting peace and re-building the country has been a major focus for JRS in Nimule. The formation of peace clubs, training of catechists, and support for livelihoods through community pastoral work have also been major parts of the project.

By Alex Kiptanui, Project Director, JRS Nimule, South Sudan

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