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; 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.