Dikem will never forget the first letter he ever received: his acceptance to Sudan Interior Church Secondary School.
“It was wonderful,” he recalled.
Never mind the tough, eight-hour hike from his home near Challi through the Blue Nile State to Yabus. The school was his only option to continue his education in Sudan – its importance only magnified by a transient life moving back and forth from Ethiopia over the years.
So, when bombing hit Yabus in September 2011 and the school was forced to relocate to Doro in the Upper Nile State, Dikem followed. He and his family joined the Uduk refugee movement south to escape bombing in Blue Nile, eventually landing at the Doro camp.
Why? Because Dikem has plans for his future.
The “head boy” at the secondary school and assistant with the SIM Nutrition Village for mal- and undernourished children and mothers, he dreams of one day being a farmer, of turning the rich earth of his Blue Nile home into an agricultural enterprise.
“Our land is plenty but we don’t have experience how to plant different things and how to raise animals,” Dikem said.
He’s not the only one with plans.
Meet Robert, another assistant at the Nutrition Village. Once he finishes his secondary school education, his dream is to become a pastor, so he can serve God and lead the Mabaan people wherever he is called.
And meet Paul, student and a past staff member of the SIM Safe Drinking Water Project. One day, he hopes to be an engineer. His goal? To find ways water from the rainy season can be retained to use during the dry season to help his Mabaan people.
Along with Dikem, they are some of the faces of the newly relocated Doro Secondary School.
First of its kind
The secondary school was established by SIM in 2008 and admits students from any church denomination, as well as Muslims and non-religious people. The school’s goal is to raise a God-fearing generation able to contribute to the development of their country, through quality education, leadership development and vocational skills training.
With its move, the secondary school is the only English-language secondary school in Mabaan County. The full implication of that status is yet to be understood – in addition to the local Mabaan people, approximately 100,000 Blue Nile State refugees from a variety of tribes have relocated to the county.
The Yabus school had an enrollment of about 150 students. If construction progresses according to plan, the Doro school hopes to match this within two years, but could eventually increase to 300 students.
“We don’t want any discrimination,” said Hiakie Hegui, director of the secondary school. “We keep the door open for anyone.”
Dikem, Robert and Paul – some of the original students to begin their secondary education with SIM – represent the future and the promise of what education can hold for the people of South Sudan.
The possibility of enrolling students from a variety of tribes now living around Doro has also added a new dimension to the school’s mission. The school officially opened in April 2013.