Comboni Missionaries Help Refugee Minors in South Sudan

New Project Aids Youth to Return to School

 Comboni Missionaries
© Fides

Comboni missionaries are helping refugee minors from South Sudan to return to school.

“Political instability and social insecurity in South Sudan have caused a massive movement of people to cities and villages on the border with Sudan: our goal is to help boys and girls who come from families without work, or with occasional work, to resume their studies and, for the little ones, to offer access to a school course”. Thus reports to Fides Father Franck Mandozi Tondi, a Comboni priest of Congolese origin, speaking of the new school project that the religious of the Order founded by St. Daniel Comboni of the community of Kosti are carrying out in favor of refugee minors from South Sudan.

“Usually – says Father Franck – during the sowing and harvesting period, many of these families go to work in the fields. Children who attend school are sometimes forced by their parents’ dire economic situation to interrupt their studies to go to work with them. During this period – he continues – the lessons continue. Sometimes half of the class is absent because they go to the fields. As a result, we have older pupils in our schools who are, for example, in the first year of primary school. We have high school students who cannot read or write their names and do not speak Arabic or English”.

To cope with this situation, an educational program divided into two sections was launched in St. Paul’s parish, where Father Franck works: one in Arabic and the other in English. “While the Arab section has been present for longer – reports the missionary – the English section is more recent because it is affected by the influx of refugees from South Sudan. With our project – he continues – we want to allow, for example, even students from poor families to continue their studies. In this way the culture of violence is reduced, as most of them repeat the type of violence they have suffered in the past; we fight against premature pregnancies. Ultimately, a serene atmosphere is created which promotes the integral development of students”.

The religious notes to Fides: “Also due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of students in our schools has decreased: in the 2018-2019 school year, our students were 2,240. Last year there were 1,599. This year our classes are almost empty, except for a few. Most of these families come from villages in South Sudan where there is rarely a well-established school”. It is therefore very important to promote dialogue and make these families aware of the need for education for their children: “We try to do everything possible – concludes Father Franck – also using homilies during masses, to invite parents to take the school education of their children and also to motivate pupils to collaborate for their intellectual growth, both human and social”.