3-Refugee Worker: Betty

Diagram on a school building at St. Mary’s Adjumani Girls’ Secondary School

Betty worked for JRS in Adjumani until it was discontinued. She helped train primary-school teachers. She did so well that JRS helped fund her Bachelor’s degree. She went to JRS South Sudan where she helped train primary teachers. She had to flee the country when the civil war began, making her a refugee herself. She was in a hotel meeting when the war was breaking out. There were soldiers there who made sure that no one left and no one came in. She managed to escape by hiding beneath a covered cart that was used for resupplying the hotel. Her rescuers then took her out of the country in a van.

She started one month ago here at JRS Adjumani. JRS Adjumani focuses mainly on education. They try to aim for 50:50 boy to girl ratio for students. It is harder to fill all the spots for girls because of the great challenges they face. Fortunately, this is Betty’s expertise. She is the assistant education officer and helps train teachers in adolescent development. They are aided by career guidance counselors who help direct students to take certain classes so that they can fulfill their dreams. Counselors help students get past traumatic experiences and family problems. Teachers and tutors also teach study skills. Betty focuses on girls’ education because of the many challenges they face. One challenge that is unique to girls is the lack of sanitation pads for menstruation. Away from home, they need all their basic supplies like clothes and soap to survive. A bigger challenge is early marriage. Parents can force their children to marry for economic or cultural reasons. Girls can be as young as 10 although most are 15 or 16. For some tribes it is quite common. Boarding schools are the best way to break the cycle. The Ugandan government is catching on and is helping prevent child marriage through its laws.

Primary school is where education starts. Children learn English, math, social studies, and science. The curriculum differs by country. They incorporate local culture by teaching the local language, local dances, and local music. School is hard at the beginning, but the students eventually get the hang of it. The best part is that the students can get individual help from their teachers. Even the parent teacher association can get involved and help the teacher out. Parents can come into classrooms and help the teacher keep order.

All of Ugandan education points to university. Although a degree doesn’t guarantee employment, having a university degree increases the chances for getting a job and increases the chances for getting a better job. Graduates will usually remain close to where they graduate. Employers mainly look at qualifications above all else, and nothing says you’re more qualified than a degree or perhaps some experience. Those who drop out can go to vocational training. They finish with a skill and a start up kit to help them do their skill. Those who don’t go to vocational training can become idle and turn to drinking.

The behavior of a teacher is just as important as what they teach. There has been a lot of change in recent decades. Caneing used to be prevalent in schools. A teacher could get a stick and whack a child’s bottom if they got an answer wrong or if they behaved badly. Sticks from coffee trees lasted the longest. Now, caneing has been in sharp decline. The focus is on positive discipline like standing in consternation. Furthermore, each country has developed it’s own ethical code for teachers to follow.

No matter where students land, they will have learned about peacebuilding because of school. Classrooms are mixed with people from all tribes. They learn they are all humans first instead of tribes first. The peacebuilding doesn’t stop in the classroom. People from tribes who have hated each other like the Dinka and Neur go through education programs hosted by NGOs. It used to be that the Dinka, who have the power in the South Sudanese government, couldn’t stay in the same refugee camps as the people from the other tribes because violence would break out. That is no longer the case in many camps. There are also peacebuilding efforts between the host communities and refugees so that they can understand each other’s struggles. The host communities are even willing to give more land for those refugees who need a lot of food and therefore more farm land.

It is great that so many people are able to carry on with life when their homes have been destroyed. It looks like they will have to keep carrying on as the situation in South Sudan looks grim. Even the peace talks fail. The good thing is Uganda will probably not fall into the same situation. Ugandans have a strong fear of God and listen to the bishops. The people have seen the mess that resuts from conflict and don’t want it to happen to them. Plus, most Ugandans don’t have guns like almost 75%of the population in South Sudan just before the war.

About Ben Fernandes

Howdy, my name is Ben Fernandes. My state in life is a sophomore at Creighton University who is trying to get as lost as I can in the opportunities of college so that I can one day find who I want to be as an adult.

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