Looking back on my previous entries, I think I begin all of them with the same idea, namely that it is a busy time here in Loreto Rumbek. Being something of a traditionalist, I’ll continue in that vein, at least for now anyway. Since I wrote last, we have had a number of welcome visitors and one big celebration.
The first arrival was the truck. Once a year a large container lorry trundles northward from Nairobi to the border post of Nadapal between Kenya and South Sudan, before passing through Juba and finally arriving at our school. It is a mammoth journey at the best of times, but with the terrible road conditions, the beginning of the first rains, and persistent insecurity it can be perilous. Its arrival is greeted with great enthusiasm and I think the best description is that it is like Christmas with really sensible, practical presents. The basics that we can pick up in any Dunnes, Spar or Woodies back home are luxuries here. There are really no local shops that can supply the needs of a school, let alone a clinic or an agricultural project. The truck was filled with mundane essentials like school uniforms, tools, desks, two sowing machines, medical equipment, and textbooks. There was also a small fridge for me. The absolute luxury! While I’m writing this in 40C, I’m sipping some ice-cold water. It is like a little corner of Heaven!
Last Wednesday the Governor of Lakes State, along with the local Minister for Education and the Minister for Labour paid our school a visit. They took the time to walk around the compound with Sr. Orla, dropping into the clinic and taking look at our primary school. The clinic is tearing busy, looking after over four thousand patients a month, while the primary school is closed due to Covid restrictions. Thankfully, we received word last night that they will begin to reopen on May 3rd, allowing life to return to some measure of normality. Anyway, back to the Governor and the Ministers. They spoke at length to the students about the importance of education and how they were committed to fighting early forced marriage. How these words will be transformed into action remains to be seen, but even the public commitment itself is a powerful witness for the rights of young women to be allowed to determine their own future.
On Thursday we welcomed Bishop-Elect Fr. Christian Carlassare to Rumbek. Our Diocese has been without a bishop for almost ten years and his arrival was greeted with wonderful enthusiasm. He is originally from Italy, but has lived and ministered in South Sudan since 2005. As the only two schools currently open in the state, the students from Loreto joined the boys from La Salle Catholic Secondary School to provide a guard of honour. In his opening speech he shared his vision for the future drawing on Galatians Chapter 3 to have a community of faith unified in the love of Jesus. He dropped by the school yesterday to say thank you to the students and to meet the team here. There will be exciting times ahead. Please do keep him in your prayers.
In addition to all the arrivals, we also had to celebrate a birthday. Loreto Secondary School officially became a teenager last Tuesday, celebrating thirteen years educating the girls in Rumbek. To mark the occasion Sr. Orla, the director, and Mrs. Njuguna, the principal of the school, turned a sod for a new grotto for Our Lady. We had a simple prayer service with all the students, teachers, and support staff, followed by a celebration of music and dance in the dining hall. Considering its humble beginnings, it is a truly remarkable achievement. We have gone from a situation where people were predicting no girl would want to attend the school when it opened to today, where we had an entrance exam for ten places in Senior 2 and Senior 3 and over 160 applicants turned up! It has been a long road, but people here and those who support the school have kept the faith.
We are beginning end of term holidays this coming Friday, so many of the girls and staff will be heading home. We will have around sixty students staying with us, because they come from far away or they are at risk of an enforced marriage. It should be a quieter, gentler couple of weeks. After all they busyness, it will be welcome.
Ben Nhialic areer keg a way,
Read more of Fr Alan’s journey:
– Looking for a Sign on the Way to South Sudan
– Building a Better Future in South Sudan
– Chirstmas greetings from Fr Alan in South Sudan
– A Cup of Sugar and Maybe a Goat
– Mock Exams and Real Life in South Sudan
– As Easy as Baking a Cake
– Holy Week on the Move