During my time visiting the school, I meet a lot of individual students and chat with them about their lives and their ambitions.
3 of these students are Ellen, Esther and Doris. Ellen and Esther are in primary 7 and primary 8 respectively. They were recently invited by Governor Africano to show round a group of visiting dignitaries, thanks to their excellent English. They also volunteers in her community during the holidays to raise awareness of health, hygiene and sanitation. They are looking forward to secondary school and, afterwards, to being part of rebuilding Maridi state and the nation.
Doris is one of Ibba’s first students and is now in her final year of primary school and deputy head girl. She tells me how she spends her holidays volunteering in her community, going from home to home to raise awareness among local women about hygiene and sanitation. Because she can read – a skill fewer than 1 in 10 girls and women share in South Sudan – she is also often called upon to read prescriptions. This simple act can save lives. I ask if she wants to be a doctor, but she laughs and says no, she wants to be an accountant. This country needs proper businesses, and people who know how to look after money, she says.
The changes that these girls are already bringing to their communities – simply through the power of good primary and secondary education – shows the potential of effective schooling to transform this struggling and war-torn nation, as it learns to invest in the bright minds of its girls.