Hudson Memorial Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, N.C., and Presbyterian World Mission are working with local partners to provide quality teachers for children at Maleng-Agok Primary School in South Sudan.
Hudson has a long history of mission. In 2000, the congregation re-established one of the missionary primary schools that was bombed during the second civil war in South Sudan. They worked to provide education, food and services to as many as 1,300 children.
Barclay Poling, a member of Hudson’s mission committee, says things were going well until the volatile political situation made it impossible to keep the school open. Some of the local volunteers were unable to honor their commitments, and it became increasingly difficult to wire money to keep the school operating. “We nearly gave up,” he says. “Going it alone was no longer an option. The idea that we could simply restore a primary school in a village like Maleng-Agok and then hope for the best seemed very naive.”
Looking for a better way to support education in Maleng-Agok, Hudson’s mission committee contacted Debbie Braaksma, Africa area coordinator at Presbyterian World Mission, for advice—and ultimately partnership. Presbyterian World Mission, through the Sudan Mission Network, was already working in the region to improve opportunities for children to receive a quality education.
Braaksma suggested that one of the best ways Hudson could partner with the Maleng-Agok school would be to help provide professional training for its untrained teachers.
In 2012, Hudson’s mission committee created the Dolby/Underwood scholarship program to help four students get teaching degrees at Yei Teacher Training College (YTTC) in South Sudan. After graduation, the students will return to Maleng-Agok to teach. The program is named to honor the memory of Virginia Dolby and the Rev. Herbert Underwood, who were leaders in Hudson’s global mission work. The group is guided by Underwood’s favorite verse of scripture, Micah 6:8: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (NIV).
Yei Teacher Training College was founded in 2001 to improve the quality of primary-school teaching in South Sudan. Courses offered include Early Childhood Development, Special Needs Education, Integrated Science and English Language. In addition to classroom instruction, students have sessions in which theory is put into practice. One of these is agricultural education. Students prepare the land for cultivation to grow vegetables such as maize, carrots, cabbage and eggplant. Students also have the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities, including drama, debate, journalism, music, dance and physical education.
One of the second-year students being sponsored is James Makuek, who was also headmaster at Maleng-Agok Primary School. He will return there in December 2015 with two other YTTC graduates, Kharibino Mapour and Mary Yar Manyuon. These three will be the first professionally trained teachers ever at Maleng-Agok Primary School. Another scholarship student is Kamen Jieb Majok Aluak, who took it upon himself to gather and teach eighth-graders after the school was closed in response to violence last fall.
In a letter to the Hudson congregation, Susan Voga, deputy director for academics at YTTC, thanked the church for its support. “The training you are sponsoring is for a lifetime,” she wrote. “May the name of the living God be praised, and may he continue to replenish and multiply threefold what you give.”
“We see the collaboration with World Mission as essential,” says Barclay Poling. “Education is our best hope to break a terrible cycle of poverty in South Sudan. This approach works. The challenges and needs are extraordinary.”