Nimule is a small town in South Sudan, close to the border with Uganda. Although relatively peaceful, it is a very poor place, with high rates of HIV and many IDPs (internally displaced people) who have fled the fighting in other parts of South Sudan. Throughout South Sudan, schools charge fees and there are many additional school costs. As a result many children are unable to attend school.
Cece Primary School started in June 2015, founded jointly by
• Rebecca Mallinson, a lay missionary under the Catholic Diocese of Torit
• Pascalina Iddreangwa, founder of Cece Support Group for People living with HIV
• Humans Must Access Essentials (HUMAES for short) a small local NGO
Pascalina has HIV and also paralysis of both legs due to a road accident. Her sufferings did not cause her to give up on life. Instead she started two support groups, one for people living with HIV (Cece Support Group) and the other for disabled people. She trained as a counsellor and is responsible for setting up HIV services at the local hospital.
The purpose of HUMAES is to lift the most marginalised people out of poverty and improve their lives in various different ways, including HIV prevention, domestic violence, peace-building, livelihood schemes, sanitation projects and education. They rely on working on projects funded by international NGOs, but in the case of our school, they work free of charge on administrative areas such as personnel, managing our funds etc. They are also very knowledgeable about local laws.
Rebecca first met Pascalina when she was a newly arrived volunteer at a local orphanage here in Nimule. Pascalina asked her for help with sponsorship of children from the Cece Support Group. At that time, none of the children in that group were in school, partly due to stigma and partly due to poverty, illness or death of parents. At that time, Rebecca could see no way of helping. She was still finding her feet in South Sudan and getting to know the orphanage and its attached school.
Two years later, things changed. Rebecca decided to leave the orphanage, but to remain in Nimule. That was in May 2015. She circulated all her friends and relations and asked for monthly donations to an account in England. People were very generous.
One month later Cece Primary School opened in a loaned building. We had 60 pupils, all completely uneducated. Our school criteria is for children from families with HIV (not necessarily the children themselves, although we do have some who are HIV positive as well as Hep B and sickle cell. We also have children from families with disabilities. The vast majority of these children are orphans living with relatives. Recently we were told by the Ministry of Education that we are the only school of its kind in the whole of South Sudan.
Pascalina’s clan agreed to let us have a large piece of land for the purposes of building a school. Since 2017 we have been continuing with building work on classrooms as the school expands. It is very heavy going as construction work is a great deal more costly than the school running costs.
The school is still very basic. The classrooms are not plastered, which makes it impossible to put up displays. Most do not have doors or windows fitted. Only two classrooms have desks; in all the other rooms the children sit on mats on the floor. There is no headteacher’s office.
We are constantly improving our school as the school grows. Eventually we hope to open a secondary section and a vocational training section on the same site.