Sudan: JRS mission in Darfur ends
02 May 2018

Education recovery was one of the priorities of JRS work in Mellit, Northern Darfur, with a strong focus on women education (JRS)

The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) mission in Sudan has ended after 13 years of serving the people of Sudan, particularly in Darfur at Mellit and El Fasher localities. The project was officially handed over to the government on 31 March 2018 as JRS bid farewell to the community. JRS work in Sudan focused on education recovery and reconstruction in the two localities which had been ravaged by years of brutal conflict leaving the community with everything to rebuild.

The project in North Darfur began in 2006 in response to the Darfur crisis which broke out in 2003. At first, JRS operated out of Khartoum supporting displaced students through the Jesuit community there. The sponsored students hailed from South Sudan, Darfur and a few other conflict-ridden areas within Sudan. As the crisis in Darfur deepened, JRS came to the conclusion that it could no longer effectively respond to the needs of the displaced people out of Khartoum. Thus, a new project was opened in Mellit, North Darfur, focusing on supporting out-of-school children and offering adult literacy classes. The service was restructured in late 2008 when JRS expanded its services to include support to basic schools and preschools as well as offering skills training in tailoring and adult learning programs. The out-of-school children were then integrated into the mainstream school system while older ones were taken to the Adult Learning Centers.

JRS offices at Mellit, Northern DarfurMellit town, Northern Darfur

JRS offices at Mellit (left) and (right) an area of Mellit locality (JRS)

Looking back over these last 13 years, JRS can confidently claim to have met its overall objectives. JRS’s contributions towards strengthening the capacity of basic schools and preschools in Mellit saw a boost in pass rates at preschool and primary exit examinations. This improvement in pass rates has, in turn, led to an increase in demand by parents to enroll their children in JRS-supported schools. Another focus of JRS was the creation of child friendly spaces in schools both in El-Fasher and Mellit, as part of a holistic strategy to improving education quality in Darfur. Important gains were also recorded in areas of adult literacy and livelihood thanks to JRS’s adult courses. Graduates of these courses not only learned how to read and write but also acquired skills that they used to make products such as jam, soap, biscuits, cakes, clothes, and bedsheets as well as embroidered fabrics, which they can sell at the market.

women attending an adult literacy class at Mellit, Northern Darfur

A JRS adult literacy class in session. Women were a priority of the JRS education program in Mellit, Northern Darfur (JRS)

JRS’s work in Darfur would not have been possible without the support of the community, its most important partner.  At the official handover ceremony at Mellit, there were mixed emotions as community members struggled to reconcile the sadness of “losing” JRS and their sense of gratitude for the support they have received from JRS over the years. “Mellit locality has lost a friend and a father”, one community leader said. “Memories of JRS will live on forever in Mellit”, added the Director of Basic Education in the area.

After 13 years of service and walking side by side with the people of Darfur, the time has come to part ways, having witnessed first-hand the community’s capacity for resilience and building a better future for themselves. JRS would like to thank the people of Mellit, their leaders and all our partners for their hospitality and collaboration. Leaving is painful but we carry with us memories of unforgettable moments of life shared and generous giving and receiving. Thank you Darfuris!   

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Endashaw Debrework SJ
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