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AVSI’s Commitment to Education in South Sudan

Reconstruction and prospects for human development in South Sudan are complicated by complex challenges which are in part the legacy of protracted unrest and division. After the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005 and consequent opening of the region to the international community to a greater degree, AVSI dedicated itself with stronger determination to alleviating suffering and fostering the recovery of the people of the Eastern Equatoria province in Southern Sudan. AVSI has focused primarily on the education, water supply and health care sectors, which were in disarray after decades of abandonment, isolation and displacement.

AVSI’s courageous step to expand operations from the cross-border method of support coming from Uganda (on Sudan’s southern border) to an established, in-country and stable presence was consistent with its mission and method of working in a country on a long-term basis; time and sharing of life and work are essential for partnerships, effectiveness, capacity building and sustainability, and to be able to conceive of responses to short-term needs within a long-term perspective.

While enabling children to have basic education was AVSI’s first objective in South Sudan, AVSI later saw the need and opportunity to address the grave educational needs by taking up the challenge of higher education in South Sudan.

The St. Mary University was created in 2009 in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, by the Archbishop HE Paulino L. Loro, to respond to the critical gap in South Sudan of native professionals for critical functions like nurses and school teachers. St. Mary University enjoys full recognition by government bodies.

AVSI’s renown in education and the availability of the Permanent Center for Education (PCE), a Ugandan institution born from years of collaboration with AVSI, made it possible to respond to the request of the leadership of the University and to sign a multi-year agreement for the formation of both elementary school teachers and physical therapists. AVSI has launched a special fund-raising campaign to fund construction of facilities and the purchase of equipment.

On March 15, 2011, the first academic year of the Department of Education had its official kick-off. AVSI and PEC started the first year for 20 students of the Department of Education and 21 in the Department of Physical Therapy.

This “introductory” year to the full 3-year curriculum toward graduation has been recognized as essential to avoid discrimination and to fill the various gaps and levels shown by the candidates due to the different teaching levels of the high-schools currently in South Sudan.

AVSI’s engagement with the University will be supported by the main AVSI office in South Sudan opened at the same time in Juba, which will allow for better coordination of AVSI activities and coordination both in the capital and the field, around AVSI’s two bases of Torit and Isohe, Eastern Equatoria.