Heavy flood affects schools in Maban, South Sudan

A classroom in Maban. More than 55,000 students have been affected by the emergency and need support. Photo: LWF/ C. Kästner

Staff commitment ensures work can continue  

(LWI) - Two weeks after massive flooding had inundated the refugee camps and their host communities in Maban county, South Sudan, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) team is returning to the compound and resuming services. Despite heavy damage and three of four refugee settlements not being accessible, some teachers and students have committed to prepare for exams.  

In Maban the LWF provides education and child protection services and supports livelihoods and social cohesion for about 150,000 refugees from Sudan’s Blue Nile and Kordofan regions, and the host community of about 70,000 people. The refugees live in the four refugee settlements Gendrassa, Batil, Doro and Kaya. Gendrassa, Batil and Kaya are still inaccessible. The majority of the primary schools have been damaged, those still accessible have served as shelter for families whose homes are under water. 

Overview of the four refugee camps in Maban county, together with Bunj town, the host community. The LWF and other humanitarian actors are situated near Doro. 

“Overall, more than 55,000 students have been affected,” says Hilde van der Draai, Education Coordinator who was acting Team Leader during the emergency. Several schools are still inaccessible, school materials in stores have been damaged or destroyed. Still, primary schools in Doro re-opened on 25 October. Some teachers, despite being affected themselves, have taken initiative and organized classrooms so the students could study for upcoming final exams in primary and secondary school.

"We have to thank one of our local teachers for that,” says van der Draai. “Emad Rabi Daffalla from Salam Primary School in Doro mobilized students, reminding them of the upcoming Primary Eight exams. In a school still occupied by several families, he freed up space to continue classes. Other teachers followed his example.” 

Emad Rabi Daffalla and some of his students.

Deeply committed staff

During the emergency and subsequent relocation of the staff in the Maban compound, some showed extraordinary commitment, putting work at the office before their personal situation. Elizabeth Paul, the cook in the team compound continued to prepare meals for the local staff while her own house with children in it was under water. Colleagues had to tell her to go home and take care of her family. “Even then, she made sure she left ready meals, so the colleagues would not sleep hungry,” van der Draai relates. 

Cook Elizabeth Paul, who provided meals to the team during the emergency.

A day after the heavy flood, Stephen Abdallah, LWF security guard risked his own life to safeguard the LWF compound in Doro, Maban. While his own house was completely flooded and destroyed, he reported to work. “He passed through the deep flowing flood water in order to reach the LWF compound from his residence,” the local team writes in a letter. 

The family of LWF data manager Daniel Awad also had a close call, as his pregnant wife went into labor during the first flood on 11 October. Their house in Bunj town was already under water, and no transport was available to a nearby hospital. With the help of community members, Treza Awad gave birth on the road to a healthy baby boy. 

Baby Daniel Awad was born during the emergency and named after his father. 

Support education after the flood

Due to the impacts of the flooding situation, weak academic results are expected for 2019. To mitigate that in as much as possible, LWF will, in collaboration with UNHCR and other concerned partners, launch intensive tuition programs especially for Primary Eight and Senior Four students in preparation for the end year exams. 

After the flood, South Sudan needs support to help the affected communities. The families who lost their homes need emergency shelters and relief goods, the schools need tents for temporary learning spaces, especially for the students with end-of-school exams coming up.