In early January 2017, Jok Madut Jok traveled to Marol, both to visit family and check on the school, particularly to engage with the teachers as they prepared for the new academic year. Though the school was not in session during this visit, it was still quite useful to meet with the teachers, community members and some students who live in nearby villages who converged for a meeting.
School opened in February this year, according to the new timeline and curriculum in South Sudan. The struggles to keep the school going remain quite challenging. Lack of school supplies and teaching aides, lack of books and government support, all continue to make the work of the teachers, PTA, and the students themselves all the more challenging. Most teachers, despite the country's economic crisis, logistical obstacles of getting to the school from distant homes, and ongoing food deficits, remain positive and committed. This is very heartening and inspiring for the friends and founders of Marol Academy Primary School (MAPS).
With regards to Marol Academy Secondary School (MASS), there was a bit of crisis at the beginning of the year when the government in Juba decided that the school had lost its examination center status and that the students who will be sitting the university entrance examination would have to travel to Lietnhom (some 30 miles away). Luckily, we were able to make the case for keeping the center at Marol. This is the second year that the school will have students sitting in the country-wide examinations.
Other challenges, perhaps the most daunting, relate to finances needed to maintain the number of teachers commensurate with the size of the student body and the level of expertise required to teach in high school. Due to lack of finances this year, our teachers from Kenya, who had come to the school for some years now, will not be able to return. This has required us to recruit more local teachers to fill the gap. We have managed to enlist 7 teachers, though our goal is to have 11, spread across science, math, and social studies. The other main challenge is the security situation in the whole country, which has already resulted in some donors to the school becoming skeptical about the feasibility of investing in a war zone. The civil war that is still raging and the economic crisis has brought about near collapse of the local currency and reduction of the purchasing power of the citizen. This is particularly relevant to the problems of running a rural school, where the teachers are paid very little and need to travel to distant towns to purchase their supplies, while the cost of transportation has become prohibitive. This is made worse by national fuel shortages, which brings the cost of food, transportation and necessary imports beyond reach of these teachers. Part of the solution to this would be to raise the salaries of the teachers, but this is not possible amidst the current economic circumstances in which the operation does not have a new source of funding.