Wednesday, January 21, 2009

First year at NESEI's school a huge success

The final academic term at NESEI’s school in Sudan has come to a close, after an incredibly successful first year. In Sudan, unlike America, the official school year ends in December for the holidays.

Prior to the break, students worked hard to prepare for their final exams, studying in groups in the afternoon shade or asking their teachers questions outside of class time. After the exams had been graded, the 10 highest academic achievers of the year were awarded for their efforts with a special assembly, attended by students and staff. When the commotion of exams and award ceremonies subsided, students packed many of their belongings and returned to their families for the long break. (Above, five of the students who received academic merit awards smile for the camera with Headmistress Margaret Juan and Site Manager Colin Nelsen.)

It was an emotional departure for all of the students and NESEI staff, with the girls saying tearful goodbyes to their friends and teachers. For many students, this will be the first time they will have seen their families since arriving at the school in May. But it was evident from all of the shared hugs and tears that many students felt they were leaving another family at the school.

“The students were very excited to be going home, but most of them cried as they hugged their friends,” said Communications and Recruitment Officer Diane Birungi. “They all promised to return to school next year.”

Students took their final exams in 11 subjects, including English, history, math, health sciences, agriculture, biology, and business studies. After testing was completed, the students prepared to leave the campus. Those who live nearby were picked up at the campus by their parents and relatives, and taken home to the surrounding communities.

The students who live farther away, and who received scholarships from Winrock International to attend NESEI’s school, traveled on a chartered, secure plane, paid for by Winrock, to their homes in Aweil, Abyei, and Wau, all north of Yei.

The first academic year was a major success for NESEI’s first school, given the enthusiasm and effort of its 75 young scholars. All of the young women who attended NESEI’s school benefited from the Girls Rising Campaign, which provided important things like financial aid, classroom supplies, school uniforms, healthcare coverage, and three hot meals a day to every student. This important campaign allowed students to focus on their studies in a secure and supportive environment, instead of worrying about how to finance their education or having enough to eat. NESEI intends to continue this vital campaign in 2009, given its positive impact in the school’s first year.

The students will return to school for the second academic year in the spring. NESEI intends to increase student enrollment in 2009, to help more young women in need of a secondary education.