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Letter to Dr.Margaret Griffin
After a talk to senior girls at St.Mary's School, Calne. St.Mary's has kindly provided some microscopes for JDMSS; also some 6th form girls at the School organised a sponsored dance which raised over GBP500 for the Girls Boarding House.
Dr Margaret Griffin.
We were delighted to welcome back Commander Richard Dean, grandfather of 2012 leaver Natasha, who introduced the girls to Dr Margaret Griffin, an educationalist and former headmistress. The purpose of their visit was to tell us about the exciting developments taking place in Southern Sudan, where, having both been instrumental in establishing the highly successful Juba Diocesan Secondary School (JDMSS), they were now progressing plans to build a girls’ boarding house.
In a school where we have seven such buildings, and plans in progress for the second phase of Sixth Form House, we might be forgiven for wondering what was so remarkable. However, in a country where only two percent of girls attend secondary school and where, in 2011, just four-hundred girls managed to complete their final year of studies, it suddenly becomes apparent what an extraordinary step this is.
With so few girls having the necessary academic qualifications to go to university, teaching staff in Southern Sudan are predominantly male, leading to a lack of female role models. The JDMSS, which is coeducational, has nearly four-hundred-and-fifty pupils, forty-seven percent of them girls, but only two female teaching staff, one of whom is part-time. The success of this school, which welcomed its first intake of ninety pupils in 2007, is reflected in the number of girls attending, and proves that the lack of past education is not down to sexual discrimination and opposition, but to tradition. Quite simply, a girl’s role was to help out with the domestic chores in the family home and took priority over their schooling.
Dr Griffin and Cdr Dean have been overwhelmed by the progress the pupils had made since the JDMSS first opened its doors, even recently establishing a Debating Society. Lessons are taught in English and they cover many of the same core subjects as our own school, including Maths, the Sciences, English, History and Geography, as well as Fine Art. Annual results continue to improve, with one-hundred percent of pupils passing their School Certificate last year. Originally a three year programme, the South Sudanese Government has recently decreed that the course should be lengthened to four, which will put additional pressure on the school’s resources but, they are determined to succeed.
To help the girls focus on their studies and to avoid the long and sometimes hazardous daily journeys to school, a girls’ boarding house has become an important and vital part of the next phase of an impressive school development programme. Planning to accommodate fifty pupils, they hope that a safe and studious environment will give the girls every opportunity to reach their full academic potential. So far, they have been able to raise around half of the £200,000 required but, although there is still some way to go, Dr Griffin, Cdr Dean and indeed all those who have been involved in the school, are determined to make it happen.
Southern Sudan has the lowest primary school enrolment rate in the world. In a country where a young girl is three times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than reach Year 8 aged thirteen, this ambitious project offers a new generation of girls a new hope and the building of a brighter future.
To read more about the appeal to build a girls' boarding house, click here http://www.stmaryscalne.org/weblinks/Lectures/Juba%20Leaflet.pdf