There has been much to report about progress at the ASAH School for Orphaned Girls, but I have let other responsibilities take precedence over singing the praises of the staff and students in Duk Payuel. Since I am heading back there at the end of December, I will be reporting more regularly about my trip preparations and our activities while in Kenya and South Sudan.
Our head teacher, Leek Sam, teaches English (reading, writing speaking), and reports to me at each grading period about the performance of students. All subjects are taught in immersion English.
Each weekday morning after our students rise from their comfy beds in the ASAH dorm tukuls, they dress and groom their hair, enjoy tea and biscuits, and head to the local village school – Payeul Primary School -which has only a morning program. Attending with other students from the local village allows the girls to mingle with a larger group of their age-mates, boys and girls, and to remain closely involved with village activities. ASAH is a boarding school, not an orphanage, and our girls return to their extended families during the three one-month long school breaks as well.
They return to the ASAH compound for a hearty lunch and then attend afternoon classes – two hours of classes each afternoon alternating between English, Health and Hygiene, Social Studies, Arts and Crafts, and CRE (Comprehensive Religious Education). CRE is part of the national curriculum. The local churches in the Duk area are Anglican and Presbyterian. This is followed by recreational activities such as volleyball and netball.
In mid-November, Leek Sam reported that all our students have shown improvements in all subjects. Our youngest girls who are in grades one to three were the weakest in writing skills when they arrived last March. In Class Two, Mary Aluel (age 12) is now 3rd in her class at Payuel Primary out of 87 pupils. Debora Akon (age 11) is 5th in the same class, and Debora Abul (age 10) is 8th. Most of our girls have not attended much school before joining our program, so every grade level has students of all ages.
Our seventh grader, 17-year-old Rebecca Achol, is #1 out of 57 students. Very few girls are in her class, because most girls have dropped out by puberty and are soon married. Martha Achol is also 1st in Class Three out of 54. None of our first twelve students are below the top ten in their classes. We have three new young girls from the village of Patuenoi. They started in July and they are in Class One. Their scores were below 30 % when they began, but they are now scoring above 50%, and we have high hopes for them.
Joseph Akol Makeer, the Lost Boy of Sudan who inspired this program, was visiting Fargo recently. He told me that our program is known throughout the state, and that he has heard from locals that other village girls look upon the ASAH girls as role models. Some have implored their families to let them attend school, too. “If these orphan girls can go to school – why can’t I?” They are arriving at school wearing clean clothes and with their faces, hands, and bodies clean as well. Mothers are insisting that their daughters get an education, and fathers are agreeing.
The community is praising the teachers and administration of ASAH for improving the standards of education, health, and behavior for these orphaned girls, and for the impact of the ASAH school which extends far beyond our compound.