Loyola Secondary School bringing fresh hope to South Sudan
“The quality of education is an important factor in breaking the cycle of poverty, and our hope is that the institute will provide South Sudan with leaders. Men and women of tomorrow who are committed to serving their people with integrity and justice.”
Says Fr Beatus Mauki SJ, headteacher of Loyola Secondary school (LSS) in Wau, South Sudan.
LSS is bringing fresh hope to a war torn South Sudan. The school was reopened in 2008 by the East African province of the Society of Jesus, after having been forced to close for many years due to the war in Sudan. The number of students grew quickly.
South Sudan finally gained independence in 2011, but by 2013 a new civil war had broken out between the armed forces and the Nuer militias. In the last four years at least fifty thousand people have died and thousands more have been forced to leave their homes and flee their country.
Over nineteen thousand children have been recruited by the militias, and at least one school out of three has been damaged, destroyed, occupied or closed. Many children are forced to look after their younger siblings, depriving them the opportunity of education.
Fr Beatus Mauki SJ says,
“Loyola Secondary School, which has 580 students, 35 teachers and 6 Jesuits, has managed to create a unique space where young people can coexist peacefully beyond their ethnic differences. The school serves as a sanctuary, bringing students together for studying and learning.”
Over half of the students at LSS live in refugee camps and many of them are orphans. Supported by local charities, the school has begun to offer scholarships to children who are unable to pay their fees. They are also providing a nutritious breakfast after it was found that 70% of children were arriving without having eaten.
One teacher states,
“I am supporting students that have been greatly affected by the war. With those who have lost their loved ones, we try to discuss their situations and we help them to process what has happened to them and we learn how to draw strength from each other. These children need to be listened to and they need lots of support. We need to help them rediscover our humanity. For children born in South Sudan, ‘normal’ is living in a world of aggression, violence, and guns.”
Fr Mauki says the political and economic situation “has left many children and young people vulnerable to famine and sickness. Every day students struggle to reach school”. However, the school started the 2017 academic year with a record 700 students. For now, at least, the school is bringing fresh hope.