The question hangs in the air for an instant.
“This is a long story,” Hellene Rajak said in her soft voice. “Yabus is not the first time I would experience a bomb.”
Her memories go back many years before the 2011 bombings that forced SIM to evacuate from Southern Blue Nile.
Rajak, head teacher for the newly relocated Sudan Interior Church Doro Secondary School, remembers a childhood in Eastern Equatoria punctuated by the sweeping runs of Sudanese government MiG bombers and the explosions of bombs falling near her home.
She also remembers packing her belongings, saying goodbye to her family and walking for days to reach a northern Uganda refugee camp.
Because she wanted an education – and the bombing made it difficult to continue.
Love of learning
Rajak loves learning. She knows how much it has cost her – and she’s all too aware of how much it has cost her students. It is under the leadership of instructors like her that the new Doro Secondary School will hope to flourish.
SIM established the school in 2008. It hires Sudanese teachers who are God-fearing, well educated and are willing to serve in any situation. Missionaries also serve in different capacities.
Teaching wasn’t always in Rajak’s plans. In that camp though, she had her first experience teaching in a classroom – and hasn’t looked back since. “I found it very fascinating,” she said.
The daughter of a farmer, her love of agriculture began when she was 7 years old, tending her small plot of nursery school plants. Now, she has plans. Plans to establish a garden on the developing school campus – and maybe even have some livestock for the students to care for.
It’s one of many things Rajak hopes can be accomplished.
“I enjoy being with the students in the class,” she said. “I feel that I also benefit a lot, because I teach them and I also teach myself.”
Change of plans
When Hiakie Hegui looks out over the unpopulated land, he doesn’t see empty space, he sees potential – another step needed to help mold the future of South Sudan.
Hegui, director of the Doro Secondary School, thought he and his wife, Rangteigong, would serve their three-year term at Yabus. Just 10 days after they arrived though, they had to flee.
Although South Sudan gained its independence in July 2011, the referendum for the Southern Blue Nile people to decide on joining Sudan or South Sudan was never held. In September 2011, bombs from the north began to rain down on Yabus and other areas.
More than 100,000 refugees, including the school’s students, have been displaced to the Doro area of Upper Nile State. The school also relocated from Yabus to Doro.
Now, Hegui faces a new challenge: establishing the only English-language secondary school in Mabaan County. He will rely on the help of staff like Rajak and his wife, Rangteigong, as well as the knowledge acquired during a decade of running a high school in India.
The Doro 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.
“We expect them to become leaders of their nation,” Hegui said. “We want them to learn not only books but to learn more about God.”
There is much to be accomplished before the school can really thrive – but the vision is there.
Hegui points out different areas around the 100- by 200-meter plot of land set aside for the school. Two classroom buildings, capable of holding up to 300 students total, will stand here. Over there, a chapel, dining hall and an office will be built.
A teachers’ housing compound has already been started; plans are in the works for four dormitories – two for men and two for women.
The physical buildings may not be the finished, but the foundation has been laid: with the leadership.
Rajak is realistic. She knows the difficulties firsthand, especially when South Sudan hasn’t even approved a curriculum (she has helped create a curriculum working off of the official Kenyan curriculum for time being). She knows the need for education is even greater in the Doro area than it was in Yabus.
Nevertheless, she’s ready for the challenge.
“I’m very excited to see it open,” she said.
Hegui has seen hardship in the past year and a half with the school’s relocation and slow progress in establishing a new base in Doro. But he still smiles thinking of all of the former students and potential enrollees clamoring for the doors to open.
“I’m happy if I can be a help to them,” he said. “I thank God for that.”