, 17 January, 2020 / 8:46 PM
Solidarity with South Sudan (SSS), a Catholic collaborative entity of religious congregations involved in capacity building in the world’s youngest nation through education, health, agriculture and pastoral programs, has expressed readiness to adopt the new education curriculum, commending the government for introducing a student-centered approach to learning, a method that allows learners a level of independence designed to foster their creativity.
SSS Executive Director, Fr. Jim Greene said the new curriculum will engage with the learner’s mind and provoke imagination and resourcefulness when they eventually graduate from school.
“It (new curriculum) is not just about standing on the board, writing down things on the blackboard, and telling the students to write and remember things; it is to engage with each student’s mind and with a creativity, to see how they can best understand what has been taught to them,” Fr. Greene, a Missionary of Africa, said in an interview with ACI Africa Tuesday, January 14.
Comprising men and women religious institutes and members of the Unions of Superiors General (USG) in partnership with the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC), SSS has a functioning Teacher Training College (TTC) in Yambio, which according to Fr. Greene, will benefit immensely from the new curriculum.
The missionary priest revealed that the TTC, which has been admitting students for the last nine years has already been using a student-centered mode of teaching, much as they intend to implement it fully next month.
“Our model has always been student-centred for almost 10 years that we have been around. We discourage physical punishment as we realized that such mode of punishment only perpetuates violence. That is not what we want in South Sudan,” said Fr. Greene.
The former missionary in Malawi added, “Our college insists on alternative methods of educating, disciplining and motivation of the students.”
Explaining the impact of their institution, the Irish missionary said, “I must say that we have been widely commended and it just shows that it is possible to set up an education system that does not rely on physical punishment of slapping students but being able to instill a sense of discipline.”
Last September, the Ministry of General Education and Instruction of the world’s newest nation launched new school textbooks to harmonize teaching and learning in the country. The initiative was part of the Global Partnership for Education, which is financed by the European Union (EU) and other donors.
Since independence in 2011, the East African country has been using textbooks from neighbouring countries. Education regulators say that with the new teaching resources expected to be put to use next month, school teaching will become consistent across the country and fully compatible with the South Sudan curriculum.
In an interview with ACI Africa correspondent in South Sudan Wednesday, January 15, the Head of Projects for SSS, Gabe Hurrish, lauded the South Sudanese Government for the step in the education sector.
“It is a very good step from the government and we are very excited about it. We hope that teachers pick it up very fast and learn these new methods and use them in the classroom,” Hurrish, a Maryknoll lay missionary said and added, “We will have all sorts of visual aids that we will make ourselves.”
The American missionary echoed the remarks of his Irish colleague that the new syllabus “is not simply writing on the blackboard and looking at the book, but uses a variety of methods, which the teachers need to get used to.”
He said, “We will do questions and answers; we will go outside a classroom, maybe visit a school, ask questions and interview people there.”
Hurrish further said that the new curriculum emphasizes methods that children enjoy the most.
“This kind of teaching is much more effective to the young people. Children love to be involved, research tells us that they learn and remember a lot better by studying through role-play and singing,” he said.
SSS, which operates under the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC) has an MoU with Juba university and is affiliated with the ministry of education and local bishops.
Initially, the organization had two teacher training colleges, one in Yambio and the other in Malakal but has since halted operations at the Malakal institution, which was looted and severely damaged during the years of civil unrest.
Students from Malakal have been offered places in the program in Yambio.
All of certifications at the Yambio-based Catholic TTC are awarded through the University of Juba.
Hurrish explained that the institution admits men and women with “at least a secondary school certificate.”
“Their English must be good enough to understand our international staff, they must be in good health, and we take students from all over the country,” he said.
So far, the college has graduated 550 teachers in about ten years, and annual enrolment remains at 40 teachers. Currently, there are 140 students on progress.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa