Advertisement

U.S. Diplomat Commends Loreto Sisters for Keeping South Sudanese Girls in School

U.S. Ambassador in South Sudan, Thomas Hushek during his visit to the education and health facility of the Loreto Sisters in the Catholc Diocese of Rumbek on February 19, 2020.

The U.S. Ambassador to the world’s youngest nation, South Sudan, Thomas Hushek, during his recent visit to an education and health facility run by members of the Institute for the Blessed Virgin Mary, popularly known as Loreto Sisters, commended the nuns for their work in keeping girls in the troubled country in school.

During the visit Wednesday, February 19, Amb. Hushek toured all projects run by the nuns including the recently launched clinic and malnutrition programme established for mothers and babies, a primary school as well as a girls’ secondary school with boarding facilities in the country’s Catholic Diocese of Rumbek.

Addressing girls at the facility, the U.S. diplomat encouraged the girls to be courageous in the face of discrimination against girls in their country, alluding to the example of his own sisters back in the U.S.

“Growing up in the U.S., I saw a lot of discrimination and limitations placed on women and girls,” Amb. Hushek said and added, “There was no state sports team for the girls so my mother organized a team and my sisters travelled to other states and did very well in sports.”

He added, “Loreto has a nice model for young girls in South Sudan because the girls are taught to be united from various communities.”

Advertisement

Amb. Hushek revealed that the hope of the U.S. for South Sudan is to see young people getting freedom to access education.

He admitted to having heard of Loreto Secondary School when the school’s head, Sr. Treacy Orla got global attention, having been listed among leading women of courage, an award she received last year.

“A year ago, Sr. Orla was nominated for an award and won on behalf of the entire school…I have been wanting to come up here ever since because of the work that is going on here especially focusing on girls’ education,” the U.S. national said.

He added, “Going forward, this is the key to development and peace for the country.”

Further addressing learners at the Loreto Primary School, the American diplomat spoke of his own mother who was herself a Primary school teacher and urged the learners to be coming to school every day, to respect their teachers and to work hard.

More in Africa

Interns at Mary Ward Primary Health Care Clinic, a Loreto health facility that the sisters launched on February 11, also shared their experiences with the U.S. diplomat at the facility.

“In South Sudan, healthcare providers continue to grapple with the challenge of health care versus traditional doctors. Having been enlightened through my internship at this clinic, I feel there is a need for more people in South Sudan to access health education,” an intern at the facility said.

Other interns spoke about the challenge of girl child education and how school has given them the chance to grow and to become people who can help their respective families.

Still, others spoke on the issue of inter clan fighting and how boarding in Loreto has helped to build bridges especially between girls of different tribes in the warring country.

One intern said, “There is peace among us girls because we sit side by side in the classroom regardless of our ethnic differences. It is only unfortunate that our brothers are still out there fighting each other.”

Advertisement

The young graduates talked about the economic challenge and hunger that many families face coupled with discrimination against young educated women in recruitment process.

All spoke of the spirit of overcoming the challenges, having courage and hope and moving forward.

Addressing the audience that included the U.S. diplomat, teachers and students, Sr. Orla acknowledged the struggles that South Sudanese girls who choose to go to school face and the odds they have overcome saying, “We have great hopes and I know the girls are very ambitious for the country of South Sudan.”

“It is not easy for the girls in this country to be here (in school) but they are strong, courageous, ambitious and peaceful women who are looking for a better South Sudan,” she added.

The Irish-born nun who recently warned parents to take girls destined for early marriage elsewhere highlighted the struggles female learners undergo in her institution.

“All these young women fight a lot to get to school. And they keep fighting to stay in school,” the 47-year-old nun reflected.

Loreto girls’ Secondary school in the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek has been giving support to the girl child including curbing child marriage to ensure the school continues to provide a secure learning environment without the threat of marriage.

Sr. Orla told ACI Africa Friday, February 21 that the girls’ excellence is a result of the unity in diversity experienced at the Rumbek-based institution.

“Our teachers are coming from within the country and from within East Africa as well. We are a very big family and we work hard together,” she said, adding, “I think as a staff and as a community, we have that sense of intercultural living and is something that we are trying to model for the girls. It is that sense of trying to be the mothers and fathers for the girls so that they can lead the way for the next generation.”

Meanwhile, Sr. Orla revealed to ACI Africa about the request made to the U.S. diplomat during his visit, to register the plea of those at the Loreto facility, to Pope Francis to visit the diocese of Rumbek and meet the youth who are battling many odds to make ends meet.

“We took the opportunity of asking the Ambassador to represent to the diplomatic community the request that we would love to welcome the Pope to Rumbek to meet with the youth,” said Sr. Orla in the interview with ACI Africa Friday, February 21.