Pastoral Care

Long Distance Learning at Solidarity Teacher Training College –Yambio, South Sudan

Graduating Class

Written by a Volunteer Tutor Allan Drummond and edited by Sr. Carolyn Buhs SNDdeN
(Re-edited for the website)

The government order to close all schools and colleges in South Sudan did not take us completely by surprise, as the Solidarity community was well aware of the threat posed by Covid-19. Since our students live very close to one another in dormitories, dining areas and other facilities, there was no option but to evacuate the premises.  The campus seemed suddenly to have lost its soul.

In the silence of this enforced retreat, we acknowledged that the college was unlikely to open again before Christmas, and began to think of options and our ongoing responsibilities to our students.  South Sudan communications systems are poor. But we still felt that we should try to keep our students studying, and that the mobile phone was the vehicle which would be used.

Sr. Carolyn Buhs, SNDdeN with two grads Augustine and John

Meetings were held with the staff of Sisters, … Brothers… a lay volunteer, and tutors. In the end, our computerman, suggested we use GoogleClassroom. The staff needed time to master the technical details, and the students certainly would, nevertheless, we decided to go with that programme. Many students had smaller phones, but GoogleClassroom only works with smartphones. We decided to seek help from donors, so that we could buy smartphones to lend to students under certain conditions.

The challenge now was logistical, for there was no point in providing a phone if there was no internet service. The Protection of Civilians Camp in Bentiu was a good example. We have twelve students living there, along with another 115,000 people… One recent college graduate researched for us the solutions to the problem of internet provision. Progress has been made. We can now exchange assignments with those students who are co-ordinating the distribution of phones, as well as the provision of internet bundles. Most of our students speak multiple languages, but this is another one, technology as a second language.

Graduate enjoys teaching

Only an optimist would suggest that the college could reopen by Christmas. The number of cases of Covid-19 in South Sudan is increasing.  A residential college such as ours must be careful about re-opening, and it is unlikely that we will be able to do so before a vaccine is available.  Meanwhile, we are hopeful that our Long Distance Learning programme will grow, continuing to raise the morale of our valuable future educators.

Thanks for your concern about us we feel that we are not alone may God bless you. Student Abass Daud