I Want to be a Teacher

Today is World Refugee Day and the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) encourages us not only look at the statistics that continue to show the gravity of the crises and conflicts that cause an increasing magnitude of displaced people but also to recognize the strength, resilience, and talent that forcibly displaced people have and provide them with assurance that they can rebuild their lives.

In order to do this JRS launched Pathfinder a career support programme for refugees, piloting in two countries: Kenya, and Malawi, which seeks to create pathways to self-reliance for refugees so they can become agents of positive change and social transformation.

We believe that more durable and sustainable solutions can be achieved by enhancing refugee self-reliance and easing the pressure on host countries, both key priorities of the Global Compact on Refugees to which JRS is committed.”

One way of  supporting refugees to build their path forward is by sharing their stories. Here is a beautiful story shared by JRS about Basamat Osman Atom from the Blue Nile region of Sudan, she is training to be a teacher with the support of JRS in Maban, South Sudan.

South Sudan: I Want to be a Teacher

Maban – Basamat Osman Atom was born just a few kilometres away from Maban, in a small market centre known as Jam in Blue Nile State, Sudan. Her story is one of resilience and deep determination.

An education on the run

I was born in 1996 to Sarah and Osman Atom, and I am the oldest in a family of six girls and one boy. Before I joined the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Teacher Training programme in Maban, I was an untrained volunteer teacher at a school in the local refugee camps. I am now in my second semester, and I expect to complete my certificate for the primary education course in December 2019.

I ran away from my home town because of the unending war in Blue Nile between the government and the opposition forces, or rebels. After war broke out in 2011, my family and I ran to Maban to find shelter from the violence. I was in the second year of secondary school in Sudan when I was forced to stop my schooling. Unfortunately, I was unable to continue my studies in Maban as there was a different curriculum, and my mother was jobless and therefore didn’t have the income to support me. After staying in the camp for three years, my mother found work as a cleaner in a private construction company. She could then send me to the neighbouring country of Uganda to continue with my studies.

After only two years in Kampala, I was again forced to leave school and come back to the refugee camp because the company my mother worked for had closed down and she could no longer support me. Basamat Osman Atom, JRS South Sudan teacher

Life as a teacher in training

During school days, I wake up at 6:30am. After breakfast, I walk  to the nearby market where I and some students from the same camp will be picked up to go to training. JRS currently offers a ‘day-school’ model of training where JRS takes us to the centre  in the morning and home in the evening. JRS hopes to expand this service to a ‘residential’ model which will give us more time to interact with the tutors.

When I’m not in school I like to stay home and have tea and chat with my mum and sisters. There is not much to do in Maban, so we talk and joke amongst ourselves. I sometimes give informal remedial classes to my siblings who are in primary school. I love to cook, but conditions in the camp mean that we have very few options to eat. In the morning I have tea and zalabia (Arabic for doughnuts), and during lunch we have Kisra (local food) or posho with lentils or beans. At times we have meat… if we can afford it.

At the JRS Teacher Training Centre, I received the best marks of 42 trainees on the first semester exams. Once I finish my training I hope to become a better teacher and to contribute to improving the quality of education for my people. My favourite subjects are Mathematics and Science. Like other girls my age in my community, I am under pressure from the community members to get married.

I would like for there to be more opportunities for girls to develop and grow freely while chasing our dreams. I want to see the community’s living conditions improve, so that people are happier. Basamat Osman Atom, JRS South Sudan teacher

JRS offers two models of teacher training to 512 teachers in both the refugee and host communities of Maban, South Sudan. One model is meant for teachers in active service and takes four years to complete, while the other (known as pre-service) takes two years. In addition to teacher training, JRS South Sudan provides a range of services, including English language and computer courses, counselling, psychosocial support, pastoral programmes, and child care to children living with disabilities. JRS also gives direct support to the host community through primary schools and early childhood and development centres.

This article was originally published by the Irish Jesuit Missions.