Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Prefects take oath of office in South Sudan

Democratically elected student leaders take the oath of office before their classmates and community members during an inauguration ceremony. In South Sudan, the young leaders are called "prefects."

Monday, November 12, 2012

She's a girl. She can read. In South Sudan that makes her special.

Rachel is part of a very elite group of young women in The Republic of South Sudan. Her status does not come from family wealth nor does it come from tribal affiliation. Her affluence comes from being a girl enrolled in her final year of high school. Residing in a country where girls are more likely to die in childbirth than make it to grade 8 of school, she is only one month away from completing a high school education.

 In my work through Africa ELI, I first met Rachel in 2009. She became an Africa ELI sponsored student the following year. Rachel is not atypical of girls in South Sudan. Her father died during the wartime between South Sudan and its northern counterpart. Her widowed mother is not healthy enough to hold a job. An uncle cared for Rachel and her younger sister until he fell ill and died. The uncle’s wife now has responsibility for raising 7 children in her home, including Rachel.

Money to pay for school fees is scarce. But Rachel has dreams. One of those dreams is to graduate from high school. After secondary school, she wants to study law and become a lawyer.

Rachel’s access to school enrollment has been made possible by donors of Africa Education & Leadership Initiative. She knows that Africa ELI donors believe she has a right to be educated. She can bridge the gap in South Sudan’s disproportionate ratio of boys to girls learning in classrooms.  If she can read, write, understand numbers and learn to critically think about problems and solutions, then she is one step closer to bridging the large divide between the illiterate and literate in her country.

One morning I asked Rachel to tell me what she considers the most important thing for girls in South Sudan to learn. She said the highest priority for girls should be to get an education. “When educated, it will be easier to get a job. Problems can be more easily endured.” She identified four school subjects that she considers the most important for helping girls to have a bright future.

First, Christian Religious Education – more commonly referred to as “CRE” – teaches about the importance of helping people. It has helped her to know that one person should not be favored over another. She said, “To become a good lawyer, people should be treated equally and judged according to their problems.” CRE is a mandatory subject in public and private secondary schools throughout South Sudan.

Secondly, Rachel talked about the importance of girls learning History. “We should know how to tell stories and understand the background of our country and our families.”

Two other subjects that Rachel considers necessary for girls are Commerce and Geography. “Girls should know how to carry out business, how to balance bookkeeping, how to calculate and the best ways to economize a business. Geography helps us to know about America, Europe, Australia and even East Africa.” Girls should know how to read maps according to Rachel.

Lessons she wishes had been available to her in school include French, Swahili, and Arabic. Specifically, she would like to know how to write in Arabic.

I was curious to know what skills Rachel thinks a good leader should have. She responded, “A good leader must be social, intelligent, and she should not favor one person over another. A good leader should be honest and hardworking in order to bring people together.” She emphasized the importance of being impartial.

Impressed with Rachel’s strong sense of social justice, I pulled out from my totebag a copy of Eastern Mennonite University’s “Peace Builder” magazine. An Africa ELI board director who attends EMU’s Summer Peacebuilding Institute, Susan Montgomery, PhD, had given me the Spring/Summer 2012 supplement. It featured Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee. Rachel was fascinated to learn that an African woman was so highly regarded by the international community. She turned each page of “Peace Builder” and smiled broadly as she discovered the many ways women are influencing people around the world to work toward a more just and equal society.

I can imagine Rachel becoming a great leader one day. I can visualize her face on the cover of “Peace Builder.” Equipped with her education, she will be ready to tackle the tough issues of her time in the burgeoning country of South Sudan.  With her voice and her knowledge, she can reduce discrimination and assist in the elimination of chronic problems in sub-Saharan Africa such as malnutrition, malaria, AIDS, gender-based violence, and poverty. She will be able to shoulder responsibility in thoughtful and meaningful ways without resorting to warfare.

She is a girl. She can read, write and speak.  By the end of 2012, she will be an Africa ELI-sponsored high school graduate in The Republic of South Sudan. She will be one step closer in the struggle to make education commonplace for girls in the new republic.  She is a torchbearer blazing a new path for the nation’s younger daughters to follow in her footsteps. She is a peacebuilder. She is special.

Written by Anita Ayers Henderlight
Executive Director, Africa ELI
Verbal permission requested and granted by Rachel for publication of this information – Sept 27, 2012

Let Africa ELI represent your belief in the power of education for girls by making a secure online donation at http://africaeli.org or by mailing a check to Africa ELI, 1550 Centervue Crossing- #107, Knoxville, TN 37932.
During the holiday season, consider donating in honor or in memory of someone who encouraged you to stay in school or has given support toward your success.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Carry On

“Maybe people never actually move on. Maybe moving on is just carrying on. Where do you move on to anyway? You still are you, your memory the same memory. And there is no eraser that can erase what experience, the most permanent marker of all markers, has inscribed in the consciousness. I guess we have no choice but to carry on! And carry on we must!”

These words are powerful. They were written by Nyuol Tong, a current Duke University student and former South Sudanese refugee. His words are a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit. His story can be found at http://selfsudan.org.

With current media reports of bombing and conflict along the border of North and South Sudan, Nyuol’s urging to “carry on” is evidence of South Sudan’s determination to move forward despite turmoil.

Americans have been asking me, “Are you safe in South Sudan? Are you scared to be there? Are students at risk?”

Here is what I have been saying in response.

Remember 9/11? People in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington DC were directly impacted by the terrorizing events. They could see wreckage, smell smoke, hear screams, and feel debris on their skin. It was brutal.

What was it like for the rest of the nation? We were shocked. We watched the images of the day unfold on our TVs or computers. Around the United States, and even the globe, we were spectators watching from a distance. We were all impacted, but not of equal magnitude when compared to what was being experienced at Ground Zero.

I would venture to guess that the majority of us in locations outside of NYC, PA, and DC woke up on the mornings of September 12 or 13, got dressed, went to work or school, picked up milk from the store, checked the mailbox, or paid mundane bills. Our awareness of our surroundings was heightened, we were grieving for our nation’s losses, but we continued with our daily rituals and routines. We carried on.

This is similar to what is happening in South Sudan today. The people living along the border with the North are experiencing devastation. They can see, hear, smell, and feel the fighting occurring between northern and southern forces. It is a bad situation. It deserves attention from the international community to promote peaceful negotiations for border demarcation and an agreeable distribution of resources.

For those like Africa ELI staff and students working, living and going to school further south of the border, we get up in the morning, get dressed, and go to school or work. We are aware of the situation. We mourn the loss of life occurring. No one has forgotten the past decades filled with war in North/South Sudan. The memories linger. But the future burns brighter. The cheers for Independence still can be heard. The raising of the new South Sudan flag on July 9, 2011 is inscribed in our collective consciousness.

The situation along the border is not deterring Africa ELI or others from carrying on with education and other public services in the interior of the country. Teaching and learning continue. We believe it is only through education and diplomacy that peace will be fostered and sustained. In light of our circumstances, “we have no choice but to carry on! And carry on we must!”

You can help Africa ELI carry on our important work each day. Will you take a moment and make a donation? Any amount helps us in our work to help South Sudan realize a bright future.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What's for Lunch?

What's for lunch? Here's a school lunch line in Yei. Something good is steaming in that big pot!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Woman in Your Life

We all have one. We would not exist without her. She makes us want to be better, to do better. Who is that woman in your life? How are you different because of her influence?

Tell us.

May 13 is Mother’s Day. We are taking this opportunity to reach out and ask you to tell us about a woman in your life who inspires you. What do you want the world to know about her?

Write 3 to 5 sentences about the special woman in your life. Maybe she’s a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, or a friend. Whoever she is, tell us about her. We will call it our “Honor Roll.” She has already made the grade. Now we get to cheer for her in this simple way.

Honor Roll submissions will be posted on our “2+1” blog next week on May 10. Take a few moments now to write something and send it to anita@africaeli.org. In the message subject line write, “Honor Roll – with her name as it should appear.” We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

All In A Day's Tour - Wisconsin

Laptop, projector and extension cords. Check.
Water, Coke®, and coffee. Check.
Host driver, vehicle with fuel, and destination map. Check.

That’s how Africa ELI rolls. Ready and willing to connect with donors across the United States, we pack our bags, freshen up our presentation with current photos from South Sudan, and hit the road or fly the friendly skies to a location near you.

Sue Plasterer from Madison, Wisconsin coordinated the most recent Africa ELI advocacy and fundraising tour. It was Anita’s 5th visit to the state. Of our 21 donor states, Wisconsin ranks in the top three for contributing sponsorships and resources for students and projects in South Sudan.

Here are 10 tidbits about the recent Wisconsin 10-day tour:

Miles traveled in the state: 1,200
Presentation venues: 21 (schools, churches, Rotary meetings, private homes, and a YWCA)
Host drivers: 9 (Thanks, Sue P., Keith, Sue C., Donna, Arlene, Marilyn, Bernice, Wendell, and Gail!)
Weather: sun, rain, tornadoes, snow
McDonald’s® drive-thrus: 8
Church potlucks: 11
Anita singing the first phrase of the South Sudan national anthem: 19 (Rotarians were spared)
Photographs with really big cow statues: 2
Lost cell phones: 1 (recovered!)
Pictures posted to Anita’s Facebook “Dairyland” album: 38

A significant highlight was an announcement from the Wisconsin Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church identifying Africa ELI as an official mission project. This means that any contributing United Methodist Church group desiring credit for mission giving may direct checks through the Wisconsin UMC Conference, PO Box 620, Sun Prairie, WI 53590. The official project number for Africa ELI is #7951.

Next year’s 2013 Wisconsin tour is already being planned. It’s not too early to request a presentation for your church, organization, or group.

Next up? Alabama, Illinois and East Tennessee.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Milk Truck

The ultimate in recycling and reusing - a toy truck made by a child in Yei.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Wine, Water, Motherhood and Education

On Third Street in Wasau, Wisconsin, there is a delightful family-owned independent bookshop. It’s called Janke Book Store and is jam-packed with newly published material, favorite oldies, and a bargain basement full of various reading genres.

A Janke employee is a fan and supporter of Africa ELI students. She escorted me to this locally treasured shop and gave me time to roam the aisles and browse through the shelves. It was a pleasant surprise to find Doc Hendley’s new book, “Wine to Water,” on display near the front door. Lest you think I’m mixing up words from an old biblical story about water being turned into wine, I can assure you that this is the correct title. Doc is a “preacher’s son turned bartender and accidental humanitarian” who works to bring clean water to people in places like Darfur, South Sudan, Uganda, Haiti and Cambodia. He’s a 2009 CNN-hero who teaches indigenous people how to repair broken wells.

Feeling a slight glow from discovering a book with stories about South Sudan so near to the front door, I began searching for any and all other things that might feature Africa’s 54th and youngest country.

Bingo! While not exclusively about South Sudan, I found “We Will Have Gained Ourselves” by Mumbi Mwangi, Ph.D. She is a woman from the East Africa neighborhood. A Kenyan, she has researched the education of African girls and written about African women pursuing higher education in the USA. She interviewed three women who revealed their challenges in contradicting common values of African tradition. These women struggled to overcome “gender inequalities and stereotypes that inhibit African women’s access to education.” Reaching beyond the idea that African women must be domestic and aspire for motherhood over educational gains, she reveals the “tremendous personal strength, courage, and determination” it takes for girls and women to achieve academic goals in a traditionally patriarchal environment. She asserts that motherhood and domesticity are not incompatible with education and professional development.

“Wine to Water” and “We Will Have Gained Ourselves” are stories of human interest and insights into the potential of people with passion and a cause.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Back Seat Drivers

“Peep. Peep. Peep.” For about 4 miles, that was the conversation among the new Excel Academy chickens riding in the truck’s back seat. They were on their way to the Mukaya campus where they would become a part of the agriculture program. Caring for and feeding the chickens would provide a practical learning experience for our students. Eventually the chickens would add protein to the students’ diet.

Agriculture is an important component of secondary education in South Sudan. Big open spaces and fertile land in the equatorial region offer students an opportunity to cultivate, plant, grow and harvest gardens as well as to raise livestock. It is common to see cabbages, tomatoes, okra and other nutritious food growing in small plots at Africa ELI sponsored schools. And no one gives it a second thought when goats or chickens wander through a classroom during English, math or science instruction. Occasionally, a rabbit will hop between the desks.

Africa ELI promotes practical agricultural learning experiences at each Excel Academy. By contributing resources toward garden seeds and tools along with supplying livestock for animal husbandry projects, Africa ELI works toward sustainable solutions in a developing environment. A robust agriculture program in secondary school will contribute to the students’ ability to grow and provide food for their future families and communities. Surplus crops may be sold for income generation with the earnings applied toward staple products and daily expenses.

Here are photos of some crops and livestock at Africa ELI supported schools.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Africa ELI in Wisconsin

Wednesday, April 11, marks the start of Africa ELI’s 5th visit to America’s dairy land, Wisconsin. A ten-day speaking tour will begin in Cargill and conclude in Sun Prairie. If you would like to learn more about Africa ELI South Sudan programs, feel free to come to one of the following public presentations:

Wed, April 11 @ 6 p.m. – Cargill UMC

Thurs, April 12 @6:45 a.m. – Janesville Morning Rotary Club
Thurs, April 12 @10 a.m. – WCLO Radio
Thurs. April 12 @ Noon – Brodhead UMC
Thurs. April 12 @ 5:30 p.m. – Bethany and Agape UMC

Fri, April 13 @ Noon – Lodi UMC
Fri, April 13 @ 5 p.m. – The University of Wisconsin – attending The Crossing Gala

Sat, April 14 @ 10:30 a.m. – Oshkosh Algoma Blvd UMC

Sun, April 15 @ 8 a.m. – Port Edwards UMC
Sun, April 15 @ 6:30 p.m. – Portage UMC

Mon, April 16 @ 9 a.m. – Janesville Academy, UW- Rock County
Mon, April 16 @ Noon – Janesville Rotary meet & greet

Wed, April 18 @ 9:30 a.m. – Whitewater UMC
Wed, April 18 @ 6:45 p.m. – Mauston UMC

Thurs, April 19 @ Noon – Minocqua UMC
Thurs, April 19 @ 6:30 p.m. – Wausau First UMC

 To view photos from the 2011 tour, check out our Facebook album : Wisconsin Spring 2011

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Bridging the Gap : Betty's Story

We hope you’re familiar by now with Africa ELI’s mission to “bridge gender gaps through education.” Today we want to share a shining example of this mission with you by spotlighting Betty, a member of Africa ELI’s first graduating class of sponsored students. She started her secondary education in 2008 and completed it in November of 2011. After passing her final exams and graduating from senior secondary school, she was equipped to start a job as a teacher and empowered to pay her own tuition fees for further training. She now earns enough to pay her own tuition and share income with her family!

For a full month Betty has been employed as a nursery school teacher. She arrives at the local school by 8:30 a.m. and cares for the young children until noon each day. When finished, she has enough time for lunch and commuting by foot to attend a daily teacher training course from 3 – 6:30 p.m. Betty is so thrilled to be making the payments for her advanced education without having to rely on anyone else to pay her way-- She proudly exclaims, “I am bridging the gap!”

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Celebrating Student Athletes

 Excel Academy girls' netball team.
Netball may look like basketball without the backboard, but players may only take one step with the ball before they must pass it off or shoot. In this county tournament, the Excel Academy girls' team came from behind and tied the game 10-10. The girls made it to the semi-finals round of the tournament. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Seat 34-D Airplane Reading

Traveling between America and South Sudan generally allows for some minutes in a small bookshop in the Entebbe, Uganda airport. Several years ago when the terminal was being upgraded I was delighted about the addition of this literary nook. It has not disappointed me.

Here are a couple of titles purchased that may not be readily available on American bookshelves. It’s likely they can be found online for those who also are avid readers of all things Africa.

Season of Rains – Africa in the World by Stephen Ellis (With a Foreword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu) ©2011. Personally tired of rhetoric and reports about how dangerous, poor, and illiterate Africans are, I found this a refreshing read. Reading the book’s jacket cover, I knew it would be worth my time to learn about Mr. Ellis’ research:

“Most of what is written about Africa is framed in terms that have been out of date for years. Too often it is seen as heading for either disaster or salvation; the realities are subtler, more complicated than this binary opposition suggests...Africa is better networked and more influential than ever before.”

Africa – The Politics of Suffering and Smiling by Patrick Chabal ©2009. Attracted to the perspective identifying Africa’s progress, this was another selection that captured my attention.

“Instead of raising the issue of why Africa has not developed, we are directed to consider the extraordinary ways in which Africans have adapted to rapidly changing international circumstances…Africa’s situation has evolved massively.”

Africa ELI is a witness to the progress being made in East Africa, especially South Sudan. It’s uplifting to see scholars reporting on research which recognizes the advances made and the power of the people to further develop the continent.

Maybe one of our Africa ELI students will write a book in the future about how she worked to bridge gender gaps and fill the void as an empowered, educated African woman in leadership. That would definitely be a must-read on my booklist.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


A feature of this new 2 + 1 blog is the “Timeline” tab. Have you seen it? It reflects concurrent events happening around the world, in the USA, Sudan and South Sudan while Africa ELI was getting established, developing programs, and educating secondary students. It’s interesting to look back and acknowledge some considerable successes, as well as to cringe when remembering some of our successful failures.

Back in 2008 when we opened our school doors for the first time, did we understand the need to stockpile food and fuel during the rainy season when we were flooded on campus for days without access to a market? Nope.

Did we know that sanitary pads for hundreds of girls were necessary to include in a school budget. Nuh-uh.

Did I know the nuances of language in another culture that allowed me to understand that hearing, “she is smart,” really means “she is dressed well” and not necessarily excelling in classes? I didn’t.

On the other hand, did Africa ELI quit serving young girls when we experienced insecurity at our original school out in the bush? No. We adjusted to our circumstances and developed public-private partnerships with existing schools to keep the girls in a productive, learning environment.

On days when the truck tires go flat and we get stuck on the side of a muddy road, delaying the start of a program, do we fold up and forget about it? Nope. We recognize that we cannot control all our circumstances but we can call on neighbors and partners for help to get us on the road again.

When students worry, fret, fight, or want to give up for all the reasons that teenagers have to act out, do we shrug our shoulders in defeat and say, “we tried,” and then walk away. Even on the days that option may seem attractive, we absolutely stay, rally and keep moving forward.

Africa ELI has staying power. What was an idea in 2005 has turned into a full-fledged, scrappy, nimble organization making it possible for a growing number of girls to get equal access to education in South Sudan. That’s what we do. With the continued encouragement and help of friends, partners and donors, we will keep doing it.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Student Profile : Sanduke

Today we want to introduce you to Africa ELI student, Sanduke, who attends school at Morobo Excel Academy. Sanduke is a bright and beautiful 18-year-old, and the daughter to two farmers. She first heard about Excel Academy on the radio, and she tells us that the teaching here is "very good." She now hopes to join Juba University after graduating so she can study Biology and become a doctor. Sanduke explains that in South Sudan, people lack doctors, and many children suffer from diseases like cholera and diarrhea.  Sanduke dreams of treating the sick and teaching them about health.  In fact, she wants to stay in her village once she becomes a doctor. "The people here, they don't know what health is," Sanduke says, and she intends to teach them.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Monday Mornings

Ever wonder what our Africa ELI students are doing at that very same moment as you're beginning a new week at work, checking your-email, starting your day off with a cup of coffee, or carpooling the kids to school? Here's your answer for Monday mornings : Students attend a school-wide assembly to begin their week. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Are We All on the Bus?

After spending a good deal of time introducing apparatuses, luminous and non-luminous flames, Excel Academy chemistry teacher, Mr. Salim asked the class, "Are we all on the bus?" He wanted to make sure the students understood his explanations and were gaining knowledge during the lesson.

Some student heads nodded affirmatively. Others made no motion. Some seemed to be hurriedly scribbling notes to read later in preparation for the test.

External forces competing with teachers in many South Sudan classrooms include sounds from beyond thin mud walls. Horns beep. Big birds with big feet loudly land above on the iron sheet roofing. Voices in neighboring classroom cause distraction. Babies cry nearby. Animals make noise. Yet through it all, the teachers persevere. They keep teaching.

In spite of all the kerfuffle, learning happens. Last week, I witnessed students responding well to questions posed by their instructors. In chemistry, physics, and history, I enjoyed observing small group discussions, full class debates, and traditional classroom instruction. In each case, with each subject and teacher, it did seem that everyone was "on the bus."

Africa ELI is pleased to be a part of the education process in South Sudan. We salute the teachers who show up, teach lessons, and encourage students to learn more each week. Step by step, day by day, progress is being made.

Mr. Salim teaches chemistry to over 100 students in a classroom at Excel Academy - Yei campus.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day, “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures” allows us an opportunity to pay tribute to the individuals across the world who are working for a more just and equal society. One such person is Ms. Winifridah Nekesa.

Born 28 years ago in Kenya, Ms. Winifridah graduated from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. She studied Geography and is now employed as a teacher for Excel Academy – Morobo Campus in South Sudan. Having focused her learning on how space and place influence factors such as climate, health, economics, animals and plants, she is now passing on her knowledge to the Excel students. When asked what she wants Americans to know about Africa, she responded, “Africans are also civilized. Many people think we live in the past, or that we are not up to date. But we Africans can perform to high expectations and can bring change in our society.” She would like to travel more in the future to see people and the culture of other countries.

It is her drive, determination, and curiosity about the world that contributes to Ms. Winifridah’s success as a teacher. Africa ELI salutes her. We know that she is indeed connecting girls, inspiring futures.
Ms. Winifridah connecting Excel Academy students with our Africa ELI volunteer, Mrs. Janis Hurd from Virginia Beach, VA.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Picture Worth A Thousand Words

What kind of sacrifices would you make to be educated? This Africa ELI student is so determined to go to school that she isn't deterred by our shortage of desks; she carries this stool from home everyday so she can sit through her classes--so she can learn. This kind of initiative and determination is what will make future leaders of South Sudan. 

Can you make a small sacrifice so she doesn't have to? It's $39 per wooden desk that seats 2 students. At least 75 more desks are currently needed for our students. If interested in funding a desk for a student like this one, please contact anita.africaeli@gmail.com. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Yei Exam Results Are In!

Congratulations to the students and administration of Excel Academy - Yei Campus! In its first year of existence, the students end-of-year exam results gave Excel a # 4 ranking out of 12 secondary schools in the Yei area. As the newest school around, it is really an accomplishment to have such a successful academic year.

Africa ELI is expecting to soon receive all our sponsored students' exam results from 2011 (just being released this week) to see how individual girls and boys have progressed since the 2010 examination results came out.

(For perspective, receiving the end of year exam results is like finally getting your ACT or SAT scores.)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Student Profile : Amani

“Some girls just don’t know that they can have a bright future,” says Africa ELI sponsored student, Amani. “So many girls are forced to marry for the dowry money they bring to the family.” So what is a good age to get married? Amani answers, “25.” She thinks it will be good to marry after first completing an education and getting a job. We concur.

Amani is motivated to be an inspiration for her younger sister who attends primary school. Their father died in an auto accident last year and their mother is seriously ill, so Amani feels a responsibility to help instill a love of learning in all of her siblings. When asked to talk about who inspired her to take education seriously, she said that the pastors in her local Anglican church told her she could “do more” with an education. Especially after her father died, the pastors told her that she is still capable of “struggling” to achieve academic excellence.

 At 17-years-old, Amani has 2 years of high school ahead of her. She begins classes at Excel Academy – Mukaya Campus next week. Africa ELI will do our part to continue encouraging Amani in pursuit of her dream to become a nurse. We believe she is bright and certainly a beacon of light to her sisters and their friends.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Brooms to Beakers

Our Excel Academies boast an excellent health sciences and mathematics curriculum. Check out that lab equipment!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Coming Soon : International Women's Day

Mark your calendars for International Women's Day on March 8! It's a holiday that has celebrated and inspired women's progress and empowerment through annual special events and celebrations all over the world since the early 1900's. This year's official theme is CONNECTING GIRLS, INSPIRING FUTURES. Organizations, governments, and charities also develop a different theme each year to reflect their own efforts for the year. The United Nations, a main sponsor of IWD, has chosen the theme "Empower Rural Women -- End Hunger and Poverty."

We will be celebrating locally with the League of Women Voters in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, on Friday, March 9, from 12-4:30 p.m. at Roane State Community College. The forum is open to the public and will include speakers addressing issues such as domestic violence, human trafficking, drug and substance abuse, family planning and barriers to adequate reproductive health care, and trans-national parenting. Join us!

Africa ELI students participate each year in International Women's Day celebrations occurring in South Sudan. This year we are encouraging girls to write essays based on the theme. You just may see some of their work showing up here on the blog. Stay tuned.

We invite you to write and submit an essay to us regarding a women's issue or how you celebrate International Women's Day. The chosen essays will be featured on our blog, and possibly shared with our students in South Sudan. Send essays to anita.africaeli@gmail.com; deadline March 8. We want to hear from you!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Going Home to Lainya County

On Tuesday we shared with you the story of Kenneth Wani and the first Excel Academy. Today we are highlighting some key moments of our first five years sponsoring secondary students.

In our first year, Africa ELI constructed a secondary school in Lainya County which opened in early 2008. It is located near the childhood village of Kenneth's family. The school became home to 76 girls, four full-time teachers, and numerous volunteers. For students not quite ready for a first year of high school, transition classes were offered. Those students are on track to graduate this year on the heels of the 54 students who graduated in 2011.

As a result of insecurity experienced in early 2009, a decision was made to relocate our students and personnel from a very rural area to the security of Yei town. A public-private partnership was established with Yei Girls Boarding School. The next two years were spent expanding our sponsorships and partnerships with multiple schools and communities in four of South Sudan's ten states. And of course, Kenneth's founding of Excel Academy in Yei unfolded.(Read about that story here!)

This year, Africa ELI received a green-light to return to our original campus. Following meetings with village leaders and feeling secure in returning to Lainya County, it has been opened as the "Excel Academy - Mukaya campus." After being approached by neighboring county officials to run a new, freshly built school, a third campus is operating as "Excel Academy - Morobo campus." Kenneth is now the director of three school, with a carefully selected and dedicated staff and group of teachers. As of today, more than 1000 girls and boys are enrolled in an Excel Academy. Africa ELI continues to sponsor girls, teachers and programs in these secondary schools.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Half the Sky

Africa ELI girls read Half the Sky, a book co-written by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn that tells the stories of remarkable women across the world, and gives a voice to the importance of empowerment for women in developing countries. Kristof, also a New York Times columnist, is currently reporting from Sudan's Nuba Mountains.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Wani Kenneth Evans : Founder of Excel Academy

Ever wondered about the history of the Excel Academies that we sometimes mention? We'd like to break it down for you this week. Today we share with you the remarkable story of Wani "Kenneth" Evans, our current Director of Schools for Africa ELI, and the founder of the first Excel Academy.

After having recently departed the temporary refuge of Uganda to return to his homeland of South Sudan as it emerged from civil war conflict, Kenneth was walking along a sub-Saharan, narrow dirt road when Africa ELI personnel met him and offered him a ride to relieve him from the scorching direct sunlight. That chance meeting led Kenneth to his first employment position with Africa ELI in January 2008 --assisting us in building and establishing a secondary school in Mukaya Payam, Lainya County, Central Equatoria State, South Sudan. Kenneth's work ethic and leadership potential were soon obvious, earning him several promotions over the years.

In mid-2010, the local Episcopal Church gave Kenneth access to land in Yei, Central Equatoria state in South Sudan. With endorsements and support from Africa ELI, Kenneth rehabilitated buildings on the land and founded the first Excel Academy, a high school for boys and girls.  Having gained four years of practical, field experience with Africa ELI, he conferred with the Ministry of Education and local officials to establish the new school; he hired teachers; and he opened the doors for the inaugural class of students in March 2011. His student population in the first month of school operations stood at 86 seniors, 102 juniors, 100 sophomores, and 200 freshmen being taught by a faculty of 13. Today, over 600 students are currently receiving access to education through the efforts of one man and the cadre of business and education associates he acquired as a staff member at Africa ELI.  

In 2008 Kenneth met a special, bright young woman. They married and eventually became the proud parents of a baby girl born in 2009. In the midst of excitement and anticipation for South Sudan’s recognition of independence in July 2011, a second daughter was born to Kenneth and Nyoka.

Kenneth is doing more than simply hoping that the independence of South Sudan will lead to better opportunities for his daughters and the new nation’s young people. He is taking action to help it become a more just, equal, and prosperous society. Through his development of Excel Academy it seems Kenneth is giving a nod to the future generation and saying, “this is a good place to live and raise a family. Educate yourselves and contribute to the progress. Dare to imagine the possibilities ahead of you.”

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pop Quiz!

How many of the United Nation's Millennium Goals can you name? (Hint : there are 8!)

In case you've drawn a blank on this little pop quiz, we're going to spare you from the bleeding red ink X's of that ruthless 6th-grade teacher you once had (we wonder if any of our girls can relate!), and give you a little help today with a study guide.

Goal 1 : Eradicate Extreme Poverty & Hunger

Goal 2 : Achieve Universal Primary Education

Goal 3 : Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women (hmm...sounds vaguely familiar, right?)

Goal 4 : Reduce Child Mortality

Goal 5 : Improve Maternal Health

Goal 6 : Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Other Diseases

Goal 7 : Ensure Environmental Sustainability

Goal 8 : Develop A Global Partnership for Development

For current statistics and facts, as well as information about what the UN is doing to help achieve these goals, visit the UN's Development Goals website here.

Africa ELI pursues many of these goals simultaneously by sponsoring students at our academies in South Sudan. Our girls' secondary education further bridges the gender gap between them and their male peers; helps the girls remain healthy and informed regarding their bodies and good hygiene; and provides them opportunities to substantially provide for their current and future families. The results affect more than just our students--they affect the dynamics of the entire society and allow our girls to educate their own future children in similar manners.

So by sponsoring a girl with Africa ELI  (which you can do here) you empower girls like Helen (pictured below), and their entire families, and you actively participate in making the UN's Millennium Goals realities.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Comprehensive Peace Agreement

Ever wondered what a "comprehensive peace agreement" looks like? While most effective when put into practice, here is a picture of the 2005 North/South Sudan print version. The copies stored in this grain sack are used for civic education lessons with secondary students in South Sudan.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Student Profile : Edina

In 2009, Africa ELI began sponsoring Edina. That year she was the Head of Health Prefect for her high school class. In 2010 she became the Academic Prefect. What does an Academic Prefect do? She takes attendance in her classes. But not student attendance. She monitors the attendance of the teachers! She submits reports to the school headmaster and the director of studies identifying which teachers have attended class and taught a lesson.

In 2011, Edina achieved her goal of completing a high school education. When asked about the highlights of her secondary school experience, Edina talks of being able to “speak very nicely,” write, and of having good friends. She said the best part of school has been “gaining new knowledge.” Her next step is to figure out how to become a nurse, or maybe a clinical health officer in the county. She said her mother is “so happy” that Africa ELI was able to offer a sponsorship to help get her to this point. Edina’s father died in 2003. Without assistance, it’s likely that Edina would have only managed to complete primary school. Now her prospects for a better life have vastly improved.

Edina (photo 1) and her cousin, Phillip, (photo 2) both graduated last year. A girl and a boy from the same extended family reaching a milestone like graduation will be celebrated for years to come. We have high hopes that Edina's little sister, Annette, (photo 3) will one day become a high school graduate like her sister and her cousin. That is bridging gender gaps through education. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sounds of a New School Year

Our blog launch isn't the only big news for Africa ELI this week-- it's also the start of a brand new school year for our girls in South Sudan! The girls have begun arriving on their campuses this week and going through the registration and enrollment process with the help of our recent 2011 graduates.  School leaders have told us that the students have all been "very cooperative," and went right to work setting up dorm rooms for other students who haven't yet arrived.  This year Africa ELI is sponsoring students in ten different secondary schools in South Sudan. The students are from multiple states, including the Nuba Mountains, an area that has experienced intense military conflict as they have fought to join South Sudan in independence from the North.

Africa ELI's Director of Schools, Wani Kenneth, reported the arrival of 4 new East African teachers who have come to teach in South Sudan for the year; more new teachers are expected to arrive within the week.

At Africa ELI-sponsored Excel Academies, the beginning of a new school year is rung in with the sounds of hammering and sawing as beds continue to be made by staff and students alike for boarding students. For a nation whose people  have experienced a lifetime of violence, conflict, and destruction, these sounds of hammers and saws are sounds of peace, of fresh opportunities, of hope. And we hear them loud and clear.
Student registration is underway for the 2012 school year.
Sounds of hammering and sawing ring in the new school years as beds continue to be made for boarding students. Funding for the bunk beds provided by Africa ELI donors including the Rotary Clubs of Pigeon Forge, West Knoxville, and Oak Ridge, Tennessee. 

* Photos source : Wani Kenneth Evans, Director of Schools for Africa ELI and Founder of Excel Academies

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Peace-Building Women of South Sudan

The women pictured were recent participants of the "South Sudan Gender Symposium" held in Washington, DC. They are leaders in the world's newest nation and they are the kind of women our Africa ELI girls aspire to become. We expect to see Africa ELI graduates in leadership roles like these in the future.

Melanne Verveer, United States Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues
Sarah Awel James Ajith, Chairperson, South Sudanese General Women Association 
Angelina Tenny, Independent, Technical Expert on Natural Resources 
Agum Joseph Kuch, Konyrot Women Group 
Coleta Aku Satro Yogi, Sawa Sawa Organization 
Mary Kojo Ali Sworo, Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare 
Davidica Ikai Grasiano Ayahu, ITWAK Organization 
Mary Justo Tombe Lado Gore, Southern Women Solidarity for Peace and Development 
Letty Chiwara, Chief of the Africa Division at UN Women 
Rachel Dore-Weeks, women and peacebuilding specialist at UN Women 
Joy Zacharia, UN Women 
Farah Council, Sudan Program Officer, The Institute for Inclusive Security 
Jacqueline O'Neill, Director, The Institute for Inclusive Security

*Photo source: "I Support South Sudan's Women in Building a Nation" Facebook page.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

3...2...1... LAUNCH!

Today's the day. This is the launch of our new blog, Africa ELI : 2 + 1 !

Maybe you're wondering what 2 + 1 means for Africa ELI. Here's the deal-- we know you're busy people. We know you've got careers, families, church groups, classes, car payments, and about a thousand other commitments that keep your schedule and your mind on-the-go. So we're asking that you give Africa ELI  3 days a week-- 3 lunch breaks, 3 coffee dates, or 3 stop-bys as you check your Facebook page. We know that your brain has already left the office building by Friday afternoon and is focused on entering again on Mondays. We want your attention on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, & Thursdays.  2 updates a week (including stories, student profiles, info from guest bloggers, and even book recommendations) on Tuesdays and Thursdays + 1 photo of the week, featured on Wednesdays.  2 + 1 : it's as simple as that. 

We hope this blog page inspires, educates, and motivates you. We anticipate that you will become as passionate as we are about educating the girls of South Sudan so that their leadership can shape the future of the new nation. Let women's empowerment become a priority for you, globally and locally. In fact, we know many of you are already at that point, and we thank you for your dedication.

Your contributions (time, word-of-mouth, financial) are what makes Africa ELI possible-- you are part of the solution for South Sudan. So today's blog launch is dedicated to celebrating the girls of South Sudan, and to celebrating your part in their success.