Tuesday, 19 May 2009
Juba Primary Schools
Tina has been visiting some of the church primary schools in Juba. I have been talking to the headteachers, finding out basic information about the schools and asking them what their concerns and problems are, as well as their successes. I have visited some of the classes.
Most of the schools are very overcrowded with up to 80 children in a class and have very few resources. One headteacher told me her dream was to have a photocopier, but they don't even have electricity or running water. In this school there are two toilets on the edge of the playing area for 700 children. Some have a few text books but never one per child, and no reading material at all. Exercise books and pencils are provided by UNICEF. There is a lot of chanting and work copied from the blackboard. For this parents pay 200 Sudanese Pounds (about £60) per child per year. In addition to this parents have to find uniform (schools have their different colours as in Britain).
School starts between 8 and 9 in the morning, and goes on till two in the afternoon. There is a break for breakfast around 10.30 am. Children can buy finger food in the playground (see picture) or bring their own in in little coloured plastic pails, and there is another break around 12.30 pm. They mostly get water from a pump.
Most primary schools have a kindergarten for ages 4 and 5 (sometimes younger) and primary 1 to 8 (equivalent to Years 1 to 8 in Britain). To qualify for secondary school, which starts in Yr. 9 (that is called secondary 1 here) the children have to pass a standard national exam. The pass rate varies between different schools. But many of the children who pass never go to secondary school because they can't afford the fees which go up to 600 Sudanese Pounds in a church school. (Government schools have been cheaper because they have been subsidised, but things are now changing.)
As from this year, they learn English right from kindergarten, but most of them grow up with Juba Arabic as well as their tribal language. In secondary school they aim to teach everything in English, which is a challenge for those children who did not have as much English when they were younger. The children are mostly bright and cheerful and fall over themselves to greet visitors like me! And they love having their photographs taken - apart from a few of the older girls who are quite shy. In one school they had a long skipping rope and were doing communal skipping as some of us in Britain used to do in the playground when I was young.
There is a Sudanese programme called "Confident Children out of Conflict" which collects street-children and pays their school fees and provides food and uniform etc. I have been particularly visiting schools that have links, or would like to have links, with schools in Salisbury diocese and hope to be able to act as liaison as we visit, enabling them to exchange letters etc.