[Part 1, on David's first impressions of South Sudan, is here.]
FIGS Trustee Jean Hartley writes:
The two-week trip to South Sudan in October by FIGS Trustees David Lewis and Jean Hartley was a follow up to the UK visit in August by three leading South Sudan peace-builders, Archbishop Samuel Peni, Ambassador Aida Peni and Hon Pia Philip. We went to South Sudan with several purposes in mind. It was the first visit by FIGS Trustees to South Sudan since the lockdown created by the Covid pandemic in 2020 and the first ever for FIGS Chair David. It enabled us as FIGS Trustees to get a stronger sense of how things are working on the ground than is possible by zoom meetings or e-mails.
Juba 2nd–6th Oct
We arrived in the capital Juba on Sunday morning and after recovering from the flight launched into a full programme of several meetings a day including: Dr Kuyok, (Undersecretary at the national Ministry of General Education and Instruction - pictured below); Hon Pia Phillip (Undersecretary at the national Ministry of Peace Building); Jemma Nunu Kumba, (Speaker of the South Sudan National Assembly); Bridget Nagomoro (founding Chair of IGBS Trustees) and the Ndawa family; Judge James Jazz Berapai (the lawyer who drafted and oversaw the signing of the IGBS constitution in 2014); the King of the Azande people, His Majesty Atoroba Wilson Rikita Gbudue; Marono Sako the Paramount Chief for Ibba; and several staff at Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) and Windle Trust International.
Ibba 6th-8th Oct
On Thursday morning, we flew from Juba to Ibba in MAF’s 10-seater plane and were warmly welcomed at Ibba International Airport – the mud landing strip immediately opposite the school. During our 3 days in Ibba we had time to meet with the new Headteacher, Kenyi Emmanual Taban; Head of Primary, Yoane Kumbonyaki; the Senior Management Team; many students, including Head Girl and Prefects; Anthony Makana Chair of the PTA; and John Kamice, (member of the PTA and Board of Governors); Bishop Wilson Kamani; the County Commissioner, Elisama James; and Chief Severio Atoroyo, who had donated a large parcel of the land for the school and school farm. He was very pleased to meet with us and gratified that his generous donation was bearing such fruit in girl students who will become leaders locally and nationally.
In these meetings we gained a clearer picture of the issues facing the school, the campus, parents and the local community. We found staff and pupils in good heart and the school campus broadly in good shape.
There are now 323 primary and secondary girls at the school! So the school is very close to its planned capacity of 360 students. We talked with 19 of the school prefects about their experience of the school, with the session rounded off with some beautiful harmonised singing. We were pleased to hear that the Headteacher ran a workshop for the PTA about their roles and responsibilities. A code of conduct for staff and mentoring for girls has been established. The girls were smartly dressed and the compound was clean. The Senior Woman Teacher is pleased that there are now more women teachers at the school (3 in total).
We were very impressed with how articulate, confident and mature the girls were. They are a tribute to the education being provided, and their own commitment to it. It is when you spend time with these remarkable young women that you realise how much difference they may be able to make in their communities.
The campus showed signs of various improvements, including brick paths, planting of decorative plants; the better maintenance of buildings; and the new enlarged kitchen working well. We saw the sports pitch being regularly used for football, and saw the expansion of the school farm for teaching, work experience and food growing.
Yambio 8th-13th Oct
On Saturday afternoon we made the four-hour journey by road to Yambio, stopping off en route at the model farm run by Solidarity with South Sudan at Rimenze. Headteacher Kenyi was with us and was clearly inspired by the opportunity that the model farm represented for developing labour intensive organic farming, and he is keen to invite the technical manager from Rimenze over to IGBS. A good start has been made on the farm at the school, but Rimenze is working at another scale, and a partnership between the two would be a healthy thing to develop.
In Yambio we stayed at the oasis of calm and order that is Solidarity Teacher Training College and had a series of meetings with Hon Lt Gen Alfred Futuyo Karaba, the Governor of Western Equatoria State; Hon Dr Kennedy Ganiko, the Deputy Governor; Hon Grace Apollo, Minister for Education of WES; Father Thomas, the Vicar General, representing Roman Catholic Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro; Archbishop Samuel Peni and his wife, Ambassador Reverend Aida Peni; The Queen of the Azande People; and Brother Chris Soosai, Principal of Solidarity Teacher Training College.
We also attended a five-hour celebratory church service to inaugurate a new parish, at which we were surprised to find ourselves the guests of honour and where we spoke briefly to the congregation about IGBS and FIGS. At the meal afterwards, we met the Speaker of the WES Assembly, the Minister for Gender and Diversity (Cecilia Anagunde), the Minister for Cabinet Affairs (Rev John Barayona) and several MPs and other community leaders.
We were also able to visit Yambio Model Girls Academy (formerly Yabongo School, another girls’ boarding school, revived by Grace Apollo) and the ECSS primary school and health clinic neighbouring the cathedral in Yambio. This gave us helpful context by which to measure the quality of facilities and education at IGBS.
All these individual and small group meetings culminated in a day-long meeting of the IGBS Board of Trustees on the Wednesday, chaired by Archbishop Samuel Peni, and attended by Nagomoro Bridget; Deputy Governor Dr Kennedy; Hon Grace Apollo (WES Minister for Education); Hon Anagunde Cecilia (Minister for Gender and Diversity); Hon Alison Barnabas (Minister for Agriculture and Environment and Bridget’s brother); Marono Sako, paramount chief of Ibba; the Payam Chief for Ibba; Father Thomas; and Brother Chris Soosai, Principal of Solidarity Teacher Training College.
Again, we were reassured of the strong support for IGBS and were told that the IGBS Trustees would take lead responsibility for resolving the governance issues facing IGBS and FIGS. It was agreed that the organisational roles and responsibilities of FIGS Trustees, IGBS Trustees, Board of Governors and PTA had become confused during the last few years, with FIGS sometimes stepping in to help the school, because of the absence of constructive guidance from the Board of Governors.
A decision was made to make explicit the roles and responsibilities of each body, and a small group consisting of the Minister for Education, FIGS and the Vicar-General along with Samuel Peni will work on a draft to be agreed at a later meeting. It was reaffirmed that the bodies in South Sudan should conform to South Sudanese law while FIGS needs to conform to UK law for charities and companies.
Progress was also made on preparing some procurement principles which were accepted by the meeting, with further work to be undertaken on processes and systems by the school for approval by the Board of Governors.
Juba 13th-15th Oct
We flew from Yambio back to Juba on the Thursday morning and there we had further meetings with Adam Clayton, Health and Education Lead at the British Embassy; Hon Pia Phillip; Professor Sibrino, Dean of Education at the University of Juba and his colleagues Dr Awad Kheiralla, Deputy Dean (responsible for the in-service teacher training curriculum) and Dr Otim Gama; and Malish John, South Sudan Country Director for Windle Trust International.
We flew back to the UK on Saturday afternoon, arriving early Sunday morning.
It was a particularly busy trip with long hours of briefing, negotiation, and information sharing. This was broadly a successful series of meetings, in which we found, and developed, a great deal of support for the school. It was particularly interesting to note how many people had heard about IGBS and FIGS, and were keen to commit time, effort, and resources to helping ensure that it continues to survive and thrive for the future.