Denmark reports from South Sudan for Global Action Week for Education: Adeng's story
Every year, to mark Global Action Week for Education, GCE’s Danish coalition and its members run a campaign to promote quality education both nationally and globally, including giving teaching materials to schools all over Denmark. Students participate in advocacy, campaigning and fundraising, and together remind politicians of their promises to achieve quality education for all across the world.
This year, GCE member and host of the Danish coalition Oxfam IBIS is distributing a booklet called The Reading Rocket, which tells real stories of children living in South Sudan - the newest country in the world. Almost three-quarters of South Sudan's primary-school-age children are missing out on an education, so it's important their story is told. This is Adeng's story.
My biggest wish is a school uniform
“I really want to continue school. But I do not know if my mom can continue to afford it,” says 12-year-old Adeng. The thought of having to quit school makes the smile in her brown eyes disappear. Adeng is in the fifth grade at the all-girls school in the town of Aweil in the north-western part of South Sudan. It is a big school with almost 1,200 students.
“My biggest wish is to get a school uniform,” she continues. “I have been at school for almost five years, but I have never had a uniform. All the older students have uniforms and next year I will be in sixth grade.”
Khartoum is the capital of Sudan. The entire family lived there for several years. Back then, the older boys went to an Arabic school. When South Sudan became independent in 2011, they all moved back to Aweil. Since then, their father has often travelled to Khartoum for work.
Adeng currently lives with her mother, two brothers, and her 3-year-old little sister. They live in three small huts made out of rush mats. Plastic makes parts of the roof waterproof. They use one of the huts as a kitchen. They get the water from a pump close to the school. There is no electricity or water in the huts. They have a small solar lamp that can be used for reading in the evenings.
Adeng’s mother has a teashop
On a dusty road close to the market, Aden’s mother Nethalima has a teashop. People come to the small café to take a break from their everyday tasks. People in Aweil have not been too affected by the civil war. But the area is very poor. Every year during the dry period, people and animals suffer from a lack of food and water. Because of that, Adeng does not know whether she can continue in school.
Adeng’s best friend had to quit school
Adeng’s best friend is called Awein. They started in the first grade together. But during the second grade, Awein’s mother became ill and died. Awein had to quit school to take care of the house and her younger siblings.
The two friends see each other every day. They often look at Adeng’s school books together. Adeng reads out loud and shows Awein the different assignments so she can keep on track. “It is not that easy,” Adeng explains, “and I still hope that Awein can someday go back to school.”
School is important
Adeng explains that her school lacks classrooms. This means that there are too many students in each classroom. “If everyone is present, we are probably 80 students in the same room. Some of us have to sit on the floor.” Adeng shrugs and then adds: “But I really like my school. My favourite subject is English. We have a great teacher. He makes a lot of funny games in English even though we are so many.”
Her mother listens to her story. “I only went briefly to school. I cannot read or write. But I want my daughters to go to school and get an education. Then they can take better care of themselves and help me when I get old. Luckily I have earned enough money to buy a school uniform for Adeng,” she says, and takes out the money.
Adeng’s eyes are shining with joy. Together with Awein she rushes down to the market to buy fabric in the red and yellow colours of the school. The school has been closed because of the holidays. Adeng hopes that the tailor will be able to finish her uniform before the school reopens.
This text has been adapted from a story featured in the Reading Rocket by Dorthe Nielsen, Oxfam IBIS
All photos by William Vest-Lillesøe, Oxfam IBIS