On July 9 we celebrated a momentous event: South Sudan’s independence from North Sudan and the birth of a nation whose people have been oppressed for generations. Africa ELI has always believed in the people of South Sudan and their future, which is why we have been actively working for over three years to rebuild and enrich its secondary education system, so that when Independence Day finally came, the girls and boys of South Sudan would be ready for the challenge of building a new reality for themselves. That day has come and gone, and I spent it marching through the streets with my South Sudanese friends, under a banner that emotionally proclaimed, “Free at Last!”
The ebullient celebrations continue daily, but so does the daily life that existed before Independence; this daily life is still filled serious challenges for South Sudan. It is time to get back to work. While the people of South Sudan have emerged victorious on one front, there remain many battles to be fought: poverty, gender-based violence, illiteracy, high infant and maternal mortality rates, to list just a few. Jeffrey Gettleman of the New York Times recently summed it up best:
“…the world’s newest country and Africa’s 54th state, will take its place at the bottom of the developing world. A majority of its people live on less than a dollar a day. A 15-year-old girl has a higher chance of dying in childbirth than she does of finishing primary school. More than 10 percent of children do not make it to their fifth birthday. About three-quarters of adults cannot read. Only 1 percent of households have a bank account.”
As you know, Africa ELI works hard to reverse these troubling statistics, especially as they apply to girls and women. Against the odds, we have achieved incredible successes since our first school program launched in May 2008:
- 243 students in school, from 4 states. Many are students who are most in need and who come from the poorest and most dangerous regions in South Sudan.
- Over 500 mosquito nets distributed to students, families, and community members.
- 40+ students eligible to graduate in December 2011
- Sponsorship, health studies, or agriculture programs in 10 schools.
- 15 schools trained by Africa ELI in UNICEF’s Girls’ Education Movement program, which teaches girls and boys about the need to educate and respect women.
These successes are proof that our programs are working and that the people of South Sudan want and deserve better education opportunities. But as a new country, South Sudan is facing some pressing challenges that will potentially limit Africa ELI’s program capacity if they are not addressed. As the new country works to build its economy and establish itself on the world stage, the prices of food and fuel have skyrocketed, and these steep and unexpected price increases are forcing Africa ELI to re-work our budget for this year.
The cost of food has gone up, on average, by 130 percent since January, and the price of fuel for generators and vehicles has increased by nearly 70 percent, forcing us to re-allocate money from programming into money for our most basic and urgent needs: food, water, fuel for our vehicle that transports supplies and takes students to health clinics, and payment for health supplies and clinic visits (which have increased with the rise of shipping cost).
We know how much you have done for us in the past. Your support is the reason that 243 students are in school right now. But today, I am asking you to commit yourself to helping our programs once again, so that we can ensure that our programs continue to run at full capacity.
Without your help at this urgent juncture, there is a chance that we will have to scale back some aspects of our education programming in South Sudan as we ride out the new nation’s economic growing pains.
- $500 stocks our medicine cabinets and pays for clinic visits for a month
- $60 buys a bag of flour, essential to making the staple South Sudan food “posho”
- $75 buys a bag of rice, an essential staple.
- $90 buys a bag of sugar (imagine your life with NO sugar!)
- $5 provides a motortaxi ride into town for our students, when they are sick and need to go to a clinic, or when they attend a debate team practice, or a health training.
- $70 provides fuel for our two vehicles for a week, allowing us to take groups of students into town for trainings and health workshops, bring them urgent supplies, and take them to a hospital when they fall ill.
- $1600 provides fuel through the end of the school year, ensuring we can reach our students whenever they need us, until school gets out in December.
And, of course, ANY amount helps us tremendously, as we truly need all hands on deck right now to keep our programs running at full capacity.
You can donate ONLINE , or you can send a donation to our TN office:
1550 Centervue Crossing, #107
Knoxville, TN 37932
Now is not the time to fall into complacency. Doing so would risk everything that the people of South Sudan have worked so hard to accomplish. Please show them your support today.
Thank you for responding to this most urgent request.