Teacher Talk

Dut Makoi Kuok is headmaster of Rumbek Secondary School in southern Sudan, which was seized by government forces during Sudan's most recent civil war
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The Independent Online

How old is your school?

How old is your school?

It was put up by the British in 1948, the first school built in southern Sudan. So you are part of its history! We are proud of it and rejoice when we have British visitors. A number of students who became famous politicians were here, including Joseph Lagu, leader of the first southern uprising of 1971, and John Garang, who HAS led the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) since he founded it in 1983.

What state is the school in following the fighting?

The enemy wrecked the school. They ignited a "field of fire" - razing to the ground the teachers' quarters, so that they could see the SPLA coming. There is a bunker built by the enemy commander, and an abandoned tank in the school grounds. The school reopened in 1998 but had to close in 2000 because of a lack of food and money for teachers. I reopened the school later that year, with 130 students. We now have 610.

There are no houses for teachers and some of the pupils' boarding houses are derelict. We have few books. We have some funding from a local diocese and parents pay what they can. The fees were $40 (£22) a year but I brought them down to $20 (£11). Even now parents have trouble paying. In rare cases I accept a bull instead of money.

What subjects do you teach?

We are following the Kenya syllabus, which includes social studies, sciences, the history of Sudan and East Africa, and classical Arabic. The pupils are taught in English.

Who are your pupils?

We have students from north and south Bahr El-Ghazal (the western region of southern Sudan). There are only two secondary schools in Bahr El-Ghazal. We have 16 pupils from Equatoria and Upper Nile (southern Sudan's other two regions). Families with money send their children to East Africa. The pupils should have sat a primary leaving certificate, but some just have a letter to say "this pupil has completed". Pupils are aged between about 17 and 27. The average age may be 20. Some of them are demobilised soldiers who have been told to go and study.

Who are your teachers?

I have 27 teachers, including two women. Eleven teachers are trained - not necessarily as teachers - one is an electronic engineer. Five are trained teachers. We pay them $75 (£41) a month. I get $100 (£56).

What are your pupils' prospects?

After the last year you melt into the community. Some become primary school teachers. When pupils reach senior three they start thinking about what to do next, and see no point in continuing, because of the lack of opportunities for further study. We have more than 200 pupils in the first year and only 20 in the last.

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