The Writing is on the Blackboard
I remember a few years ago assisting in a project to provide iPads for use by the children of Corpus Christi Primary School in Moyross. With the support of the local pharmacy and the local people we were able to ensure that the children of Moyross got iPads in the school and so were not left further disadvantaged by the so called digital divide. This past week I was reminded yet again that here in Maban the divide is on another scale altogether. The divide is worlds apart.
In recent days I spent some time in each of the four schools or childhood learning centres that JRS supports in Maban. There was a common request in all the schools. The staff were not looking for iPads for the children. The request was far more modest – they were looking for a blackboard. And not a blackboard for each class but one to be shared among classes. A blackboard per school! As you can see from the pictures of the existing blackboards, the request is well justified. And we will be able to help these schools get the blackboards. But they need a lot more. But that is not the full story!
Each of the centres I visited caters for between 300 and 400 children aged between 3 and 6 years of age. The four centres are all locally run. Three are organised by the local catholic parish and one by a community of people who are displaced because of the war and had to move the 100 Kms or so and find a safer place to live.
Now let me invite you into a reality check, because when I mention four schools or learning centres - you are probably imagining buildings and classrooms But there are no classrooms at all in one of these centres. Children are taught under the shade of trees. The best 'established' school has three classrooms and a large tent and a large tree, the magestic branches of which provde great cover. The blackboard lies against the trunk of the tree and can be easily moved from tree to tree as the need requires.
Yes a request for a blackboard in such circumstances is a basic and modest request. It is a reminder of how deprived of resources the people of South Sudan are. However the truth of the mater is this -The people here maybe without resources, but that are not lacking in resourcesfulness.
The fact that these parents and this community want to and manages to run a learning centre for childen in these circumstances is just another example of the reouscefulness of people I see all around me. The picture below captures the spirit. You don't have a notice baord. But why do you need one when you can pin a notice to a tree! It was a resilence and resourcefulness I saw too in Moyross.
So yes my time in these learning centres was a vivid example of the divide between the haves and have nots in this world. But that is not all that I was reminded of. I was also reminded of something I saw so often in the people of Moyross. When the human spirit is tested and when human life is under threat then you maybe sure to see the best of what it is to be human in the midst of such situations. Examples of openess to respond with compassion and creativity to human need seems to be more evident in the Maban's and Moyrosses of this world. Such people point to something really important for people caught on the threadmill of plenty and consumption. They call forth our common humanity. I think this is what the carpernter from Nazareth saw as he walked to roads and streets of Israel and summed up in his typical poetic way - Blessed are the Poor.
My visit left me energised to do my best to support this community and I am sure we can overtime strengthen these learning centres.
Thank you for reading and thanks to so many of you who send me feedback. Some of you have been asking me how I am coping with language here, so I hope I can cover that in my next blog. Tomorrow is a bank holiday here and all our staff are off. So I look forward to a quiet office and hope to catch up a little of admin work that gets lost in the demands of everyday activity and responding to unplanned events. Some rest in the afternoon will be welcome too!
I wish all of you in Ireland an enjoyable May bank-holday weekend, espcialliy my friends in Limeirck. Enjoy the Limerick Run and the Riverfest.