In a sign of the road to rebuilding despite political tensions, St. Mary’s University in Juba, South Sudan, opened the 2012-2013 academic year on May 7 with a ceremony inaugurating a building for the 35 students enrolled in the Faculty of Education.For these students, this will be the first year of the official curriculum—being developed by AVSI in conjunction with education experts from the Permanent Centre for Education (PCE)—after completing a ‘zero’ year of preparations designed to accommodate for the wide variety of academic backgrounds of the students.
The newly-constructed facility for the School of Education was blessed by Most Reverend Paulino Lukudu Loro, Archbishop of Juba, in the presence with invitees including the guest of honor, Hon. Dr. Peter Adwok Nyaba, Minister of Higher Education, Alberto Piatti, AVSI Secretary General, Mauro Giacomazzi of the PCE, the staff, students, and other local dignitaries and international guests.
In his address for the occasion, Archbishop Loro underlined the most important factor: “Today’s celebration is not for the new walls built, but for the students, the teachers, and parents: it is their ‘construction’ that we are celebrating.”
Piatti commented on the long history of AVSI’s relationship with the people of South Sudan, beginning with the management of camps for Sudanese refugees in Uganda, which led to multi-year healthcare, water and sanitation, formal and informal education programs in Eastern Equatoria (Torit and Isohe), continuing now along with the development of the recently-founded university.
The Faculty of Education expands the original faculties of social work and rehabilitation sciences at St. Mary’s University. The history of the education program began in 2009 when, in order to address the lack of trained teachers, Archbishop Loro requested the involvement of AVSI to found a faculty to train and certify primary teachers. AVSI took up the challenge involving the technical expertise of the Uganda-based PCE.
With this intervention, AVSI seeks to go to the heart of the educational crisis that plagues the country, where estimates report that only 24% of the population can read.
The goal is to train qualified primary teachers in line with new standards being set by the South Sudan government, in order to improve the conditions of schools and education, which are poor both in terms of formal training for teachers and materials and structures available to students. The university seeks to enroll both teachers who already work in schools but lack training, as well as recruiting young people who finish high school and have an interest in being educators.