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Marol Academy 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to supporting sustainable education in South Sudan.  It has grown to envision plans to support healthcare of the students and community in the region.

NEWS

Despite the War, the School Must Go On

Andrea Shaw

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.

Marol Clinic Introduced

Andrea Shaw

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The Board of Directors of the Marol Academy, the US-based charity that raises funds for the Marol school project, held its quarterly meeting on September 18th in order to introduce a new idea, the possibility of adding a Marol Clinic to the school endeavor.

Dr. Andrea Shaw, formerly a UCLA physician now working with SUNY Upstate Medical University in Refugee & Global Health, who has been to Marol several times over the past few years, briefed the board meeting about the health needs at Marol and the feasibility of adding a clinic to the school construction project.  Such a clinic would truly change the lives of students and their families.  Possibilities of establishing the clinic are being explored.

Working Together

Christopher Hrynczyszyn

We took our third trip to the school this year, again to follow up on the students, support their teachers and ensure construction was moving along.  Visits are good for the morale of the staff who work under hard circumstances and for very little pay. Although we pay Marol Primary School teachers much higher than rate than the government teacher salaries, there is the problem of the teachers having to walk the same long distances as the pupils. The teachers have made a request for a couple of motor bicycles to facilitate the running of school-related errands.

This trip was also aimed at assessing the needs of the secondary school in regards to classroom space and staff office.  It was concluded in the meeting with the staff that the school needs one more 3-room building for classrooms and science lab.  It is estimated to cost between 36-40,000 USDollars, including furniture and fixtures.  This building will be a major part of our fund-raising efforts going forward.

Recruiting More Female Teachers

Andrea Shaw

School had been underway since February with reports of good progress being made.  We visited in May to check in on the students, to complete the delivery of construction of material and to contract the construction for the secondary school new building. 

We held a meeting with the primary school PTA and the secondary school board of governors, both to discuss the possibilities of future community contribution to the effort. These meetings were very fruitful both in terms of establishing programs for a shared governance and contribution to construction projects.  We also discussed the question of school feeding, assessing the possibility of parents donating grain to the school food stores.

Parents and teachers raised the importance of recruiting female teachers, which we have been exploring since. Increasing the number of female teachers is key to our mission of encouraging girls to enroll and stay in school, as this project was in principle an endeavor promote girls’ education. The presence of women teachers both assures the parents about the social climate in the school and it provides these young girls with role models.