Here in the United States we are plagued with questions about school this year. Will the children return to classrooms like before? Or will they stay at home and learn by live teachers on Zoom or by video recorded lessons online? If they go back to classrooms we ask, “will we need to purchase uniforms or new clothes? Will we need new backpacks and cool lunchboxes? Oh, and should we arrange a carpool or get a bus schedule?”
If school is determined to be learning from home we might ask, “how many laptops will we need? And how will I handle my work schedule?”
In Bidi Bidi refugee camp in Uganda school is a rare privilege for only a few children. Education is not provided by the government. The 270,000 residents are South Sudanese who have fled their homes due to out of controlled violence. Upon arrival they are given a small plot of land and a tarpaulin. A very insufficient ration of food is provided monthly. The families arrive traumatized from abrupt loss of homes and land. Many family members are separated in the chaos, and many don’t know if their loved ones are dead or alive.
However, the South Sudanese people are quite resilient. And they desperately want to provide a better life for their children. In Bidi Bidi 12 volunteer teachers began a makeshift secondary school so their primary school graduates could continue their education. They constructed a large tent with wooden poles and plastic tarps. They named their school Ebenezer, which means “stone of help”. It comes from 1 Samuel 7:12, where we read about the Prophet Samuel erecting a stone to commemorate the final victory for God’s people over the Philistines. This victory was only possible because of God’s help. Ebenezer, an appropriate name for this school indeed!
Living Water Community Transformation decided to support Ebenezer in January 2020. During this pandemic, which interrupted the school schedule, we have been busy trying to make the best use of the time without the students present.
LWCT began by providing monthly financial support for 25 school staff. Next, the temporary latrines were replaced with proper permanent latrines. Then a shipping container was converted into a library, which can be moved if the school relocates back to South Sudan. Also, a proper roof was added to a mud brick building, which was constructed by the teachers (the previous building collapsed because of heavy rains). All the secondary school textbooks that are required by the government were purchased for the school (Ebenezer owned no textbooks before). Lockable cabinets for a new science laboratory were procured, in advance of receiving the equipment and materials necessary for accreditation. A concrete floor to replace the dirt floor is in the process of being poured this week. And a security fence that includes the ball field will be erected later this month for the school grounds.
In Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippian Church he said, “God will meet all your needs” (Philippians 4:19). But what are our actual needs? Laptops and lunch boxes, or latrines and textbooks? It really is all relative, isn’t it? Just something to think about.
“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” Isaiah 58:11
Your Sister in Christ,