A COUNTRY where more than a million children do not go to school and the majority of lessons take place under trees may seem like a world away from a private school in York.
But the Mount in York has announced today it is to help establish a new boarding school in the world’s newest country, South Sudan.
The campaign to create the Ibba Girls’ School is being led by Bridget Nagamoro, who is said to be the only girl in her country to have completed her education and gone on to attend university.
It is being backed by the UK-based charity Friends of Ibba Girls’ School and Open University professor Jean Hartley, who was a former pupil at the Mount.
The Mount, an all-girl Quaker School, is now joining the team and hopes to be able to provide expertise in both teaching and running a boarding school.
The school in South Sudan is already being built and will take on its first 40 pupils in February next year.
Prof Hartley said she hoped the school would be the first of many in the young country.
“The intention is to create a ripple effect across the country to give girls the necessary educational opportunities, resources and teachers to achieve their potential.
“Some students may go on to become leaders. We are not necessarily setting about to create leaders, but to allow the next generation of South Sudanese girls, whether they go on to university, career or parenthood, to have the opportunity to use their education for the benefit of their country,” she added.
“These girls will have autonomy and control over their lives and the lives of their families. After 50 years of civil war, this is a moment of great opportunity for the people of South Sudan, and every day counts towards building their brightest possible future.”
Decades of civil war have left the nation, which was granted independence in 2011, with little infrastructure. Prof Hartley told the Yorkshire Post that 80 per cent of lessons in South Sudan takes place “under trees”.
A Unesco report from 2011 warned that there were more than 1.3 million primary school-age children out of school in the country, which was second-to-bottom in the world ranking for net enrolment in primary education and bottom of the world league table for enrolment in secondary. It also faces a shortage of teachers with a ratio of 200:1 in some states.
The report also warns that a young girl in Sudan was said to be three times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than to finish primary school.
Prof Hartley said that for many girls their daily lives involved walking miles to fetch water or looking after their families.
The aim of the boarding school was to provide them with an environment where they can focus on their education and also do not face pressure to marry early.
With building work underway the project is now working on what goes on inside the school.
The Mount’s principal Julie Lodrick said it would be able to provide advice on running a boarding school, teaching and learning and guidance on governance. Future teacher and pupil exchanges are also being considered.
She said: “When Jean first approached the Mount to become involved with Ibba Girls’ School, it was an educationalist’s dream come true. There is a current trend for large independent schools to make considerable investments establishing overseas satellite schools in countries like China and India. That model for international reach may be appropriate for those schools.
“What is so exciting for The Mount about Ibba Girls’ School is that it could be said our ‘investment’ is the seed that was Joan’s own education. Planted back in 1968, the idea was nurtured in Jean and her fellow students that they can transcend boundaries to make the world a better place. The seed which took root with Jean will now plant seeds of its own with the girls to be educated at Ibba Girls’ School. This is the power of education at its absolute finest.”
Last week, representatives from The Mount and the Ibba Girls’ School met dignitaries in the House of Lords to discuss the project. Another link with York is that the project is being supported by Gayaza Girls’ School in Kampala, Uganda, the former school of the Archbishop of York’s wife, Margaret Sentamu.