Education in Pochalla on the brink of collapse
“One plus three, what is the answer?” Was the sound of a thirteen year old boy volunteering to help teach primary two class in Pochalla County’s biggest Primary School, surrounded by about 60 pupils, others seated and others standing,
He is one of the many voluntary teachers trying to helping the schools in Pochalla County.
There is no Secondary School in Pocholla County. When the children complete primary eight, those who can afford to go to Ethiopia cross there to attend secondary schools.
The anonymous boy whose words were translated said he chose to volunteer to help his brothers and sisters because there are few teachers to teach all the classes.
Another Omot Okuny Agwar. a volunteer teacher at Pochalla Primary School said “given the high interest from the children to learn yet most of the teachers are not there, I decided to volunteer to help these children.”
“It is very difficult to get the exercise books for even the pupils. Now that our salaries are not working it’s very difficult to help the children with the books,” he said.
Agwar said he teaches 4 classes a day. He said in a class, the number of pupils range from 85 to 130.
He said they even carry their own chairs from home for sitting and after classes they go with them back home.
The Education Sector in Pochalla County in Boma State is on the brink of collapse since most teachers have quit their jobs opting to work for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) where they get satisfactory money, the County Education Director Owaar Omot Kul said.
Kul admitted there are few teachers in the County. He said most of the government teachers have quit teaching because of the little salary the government is paying.
He said a government teacher in Pochalla gets a salary of 500 SSP which is not enough given the current economic crisis.
“We don’t have teachers in the government schools and because of the small salary; most of them have joined the NGOs because they are being paid a lot of money,” he said.
The County Education Director said only that the current NGOs in the state are not in position to employ a lot of people otherwise all of the teachers would have left teaching.
Kul said there are only twenty teachers in seven primary schools in the County with about 2000 children registered, and if more teachers are not recruited, there will be no future in the education sector.
“We are requesting the government to recruit a lot of teachers in Pochalla to make work easier for the teachers,” he appealed.
He said the fighting among the Anyuak communities has worsen the already bad condition of schools in the County because most of the text books have been looted during the fighting.
Now that the people of Pochalla have signed the peace agreement, he said the government should quickly intervene to improve the education sector.
He revealed that they have requested from the state and the national government o help them but there is no response upto now.
He accuses the Members of Parliament (MPs) representing Pochalla in the National Assembly of mismanaging the Constituency Development Fund (CDF)-money meant for developing the County.
“The money for constituency development has already been consumed because they have done nothing. The MPs are just working for themselves not for the development of the county,” he said. “During elections we shall vote them out and new people come in because they have failed Pochalla.”
He said they just started construction of a secondary school but the construction collapsed and the whereabouts of the money is not clear.
The MP representing Pochalla in the Transitional National Legislative Assembly Charles Wello Onyony said they have not been able to visit Pochalla due to lack of transport given that the only means of transport to the County is by air.
He however said they will report the issue to the State government.
Onyony said they have raised the issue many times in the parliament but there is no solution since the priority of the government is on first improving the security.
He said they are working hard so that the basic services are taken to the people of Pochalla. “We are going to unite as MPs from Pochalla to abolish the communal conflicts and from there the NGOs can come and help us but from the government side the crisis has blocked everything.” he said.
He said for the last six months the government teachers have not gotten their salaries. “They have not got their salaries for the last 6 months, so if a teacher gives up who will be responsible for that?” he asked. “The government will be responsible.”
Kul said the situation is too bad that even the teachers who are volunteering are using their own money for buying pens and books to teach.
George Ochalla a teacher in one of the private primary schools said the biggest challenge they face is the lack of text books.
He said the only books they are using now are the ones that were received when Boma State was still under Jonglei State, but since Boma became a State, no books were donated to the county buy the State government.
“We have to use the few we have, there is a very good turn up from the pupils but the teachers are leaving the profession.”
Ochalla admitted some of those who are volunteering are not highly educated and not trained.
“Because they have not been trained as teachers, they will not have that heart of helping. Any job opportunity that come they go for it,” he said.
Ochalla said out of ten teachers in his school, three of his colleagues have left the job, leaving the management of 300 pupils to only seven teachers.
By Morris Dogga