Nile Orphan Care rekindles hope for street children
By Mamer Abraham
Nile Orphan Care hasbecome a safer haven for the street children, orphans and other disadvantaged children whose thirst for education is quenched in the quest for knowledge. Within the orphanage is a primary school where children learn called Inter-ethnic Academy.
According to the Education Director who also serves as the headteacher, William Deng Joseph, the school was named as inter-ethnic Academy due to the students it hosted from various tribes of South Sudan.
“The school itself is called inter-ethnic Academy; it was opened by Nile Orphan Care. Nile Orphan Care is an organization which is restoring hope to the orphans through free quality education plus food which we get from our donors in United States, Rice from an Organization called love the hungry,” Joseph said.
The School was first started as a scholarship program for orphans in 2011 in Yei. But due to instability which erupted in Juba in 2016, the road was inaccessible and there was no way of transporting food to Yei. The children were evacuated from Yei to Juba in 2017.
Nile Orphan Care and Inter-ethnic Academyhave now become sources of hope to various street children who have found it as an incubator for their future success. The school so far graduated three batches of primary eight pupils and due to graduate the fourth batch this year, excelling in education with limited resources.
Achan Harriet, a primary eight pupil at Inter-ethnic Academy who resides within the orphanage said that she was once on the street when her father died and her mother ran mad, so she ended up on the street. Harriet vowed that she would continue with her education till completion if resources would be available.
“Life in the street was not easy. We had been begging from people and if nobody gaveus money and cooks from the hotels refused to give us leftover foods, we just slept hungry,” she said. “This place is good but the only problem is that we eat only rice, no balanced diet. It is rice in the morning, in the afternoon and in the evening. But this place is okay. We shall not go back to the streets.”
YarAlier also said that they lacked books for reading and other stationeries. She also said that their teachers were not paid sayingthat it was not fair.“We don’t have books for reading. Our teachers are not paid also which is not fair,” Alier said.
She said that she ended up on the streets when her father who was taking care of her and her siblings died on the way from Juba to Yei. The girls said that they had their siblings still on the streets and would be happy if they could be rescued from the street life.
As for DiingMawut and Elijah Monydum who were having single parents, they were school dropouts once in despair to pursue education. They appreciated Nile Orphan Care for accommodating and educating them.
The orphans called for assistance with materials for finishing up their new classrooms and building their homes within the orphanage, food, clinic, beds, mattresses, stationery, clothes and many more.
However, the management of the orphanage and the school administration confided that none of the children they took care of ever returned to the streets.
The orphanage hosts one thousand, two hundred and seventeen orphans (1217). However, according to the school administration and the teachers, they pay a rent of a hundred thousand South Sudanese pounds monthly.
The school lacks water for the children to drink and shower and dormitories and classrooms are not enough. According to the Education Director, William Deng Joseph, they are sometimes helped by the landlord whom he said was the commissioner of Police in Jonglei State, Joseph Mayen Akoon.
“We are able to stay within this school not because we have funds but because our landlord is a good man. In 2018, we did not pay anything because we told him that we had no money and that the children we were educating were children of the heroes who fought for South Sudanese freedom. He shed tears and left and never asked for anything,” Deng Joseph explained while being interviewed by Juba Monitor.
Tor Deng, a teacher said that they had been buying water. He said that they only had water system at their new plots at Juba Two where they had constructed seven classrooms but due to lack of funding, they were not roofed.
He also said that the Headteacher used his personal vehicle to carry passengers to Bor or Nimule in order to get money to buy food, pay rent and motivate teachers which could not allow him concentrate on school management.
“William carries people to Bor or Nimule in order to get some money to buy food when donated food is over, pay rent and motivate teachers. If no funding has come from anywhere, we work voluntarily. Sometimes, our CEO uses his family money to buy food for the children,” Tor said.
The teachers usually go to the streets to convince street children and carry them to the orphanage. However, they said that they could not advertise intake but whenever the school opened, they school could be crowded. Apart from the food donation from Love the Hungry organization in the US and little donations from the community, he said that they had written to various government offices and NGOs but they were not helped.
“We wrote our letter to the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare but nothing has come. We also wrote to the office of vice president Rebecca Nyandeng but our letter has not reached her. Other NGOs come, appreciate the work but do not help,” he added.
There were three cases of forced marriage experienced in the orphanage which involved three orphans. The three girls; Nyanwut Chol, YarKuany and Adut whose father’s name was not given were later claimed by relatives and married off, the executive director of Nile Orphan Care and the teachers revealed.
The case was not followed up because the orphanage had just begun and could sabotage the smooth running of the orphanage and care rendered to orphans.
The orphanage has no clinic and children are in need of proper clothing and enough food as well.
Journey to the future home
In an interview with the Executive Director of Nile Orphan Care John Deng Ater on Saturday last week, he said that they decided to invest in the future of vulnerable children because they were the future of the country.
“The reason why Nile Orphan care chose orphans and those vulnerable children, we are looking for the future of this country, and when we look for the future, these children are the future of the country, if we can build them, we are building the next generation that will make a better country,” Ater said.
Ater said that they had faced challenges of forced marriage in three cases where some children were taken out of the orphanage and married off by relatives who were not there when they were on the streets. He said that they had devised a mechanism of dealing with forced marriage among the orphans under their care and urged the government to be helping them in eradicating it and standing with them when such cases are reported to them.
“South Sudan is a country in which people find resources in different ways like marriages. A few cases happened in Nile Orphan Care about girls who were really orphans but after all we found out that there were people who could claim them and took them through forced marriage. This is not good for the country and it also destroys the future of the child not only in Nile Orphan Care but also everywhere in South Sudan. Forced marriage is not good. We have established some measures to make sure this thing is avoided,” he said. “When we recruit these children, we know very well these children are orphans and we are their parents, if someone comes for them, we shall report this to the government and to the police.”
He called upon the government to take radical measures against forced marriage and be ready to step in once such cases are reported to them. He said that they could be an eye for the government to find out things the government could not easily find out which happen within the community.
The Executive Director revealed that they had a team which was trained on how to recruit and convince street children into the school.He said that the children could come with different mindsets but they could be put under rehabilitation to change them gradually.
“In few months, they become better and they won’t even feel like going back to the street. In our way of recruitment as well, this is a system, if you are not careful, it can be cheated but we have strategies we have set to get the right people. When you find such children, you cannot even believe them, some can even be three years old but we nurture them to become better citizens,” he said.