|Teresa Anthony, as she is known, is a young South Sudanese woman who has struggled for many years in order to fulfil her dream to become a teacher and now not only proudly teaches but is studying through the UK Open University for a degree in education.
Teresa was born in 1986, one of 13 children born to her mother. The family had to flee to Congo when Teresa was five years old, due to the ongoing war in Southern Sudan, as it was known prior to Independence in 2011. While in Congo Teresa had to learn French in order to go to school. The family remained there for twenty years and during that time Teresa was “married” at the age of eighteen. She has since given birth to six children, four of whom are living today.
Teresa is a battler who never gives up. In Congo she was not able to continue education after the birth of the first child as the authorities did not allow women to come to school with children at the breast. What could a mother do? So, Teresa’s education was interrupted. When she returned to Southern Sudan she went back to school as she was determined to have an education. She attended the afternoon classes for adults. Now she was learning in English!
Teresa first met Solidarity personnel when they arrived in Yambio in 2008, because at the time she was working as a cook and cleaner for the Christian Brothers. At the same time Teresa was caring for two sons and studying at afternoon classes so she could complete her secondary education. While working at her job Teresa would be carrying her youngest child and at the same time minding the older son. When the work was done she would go to classes for adults still carrying the children with her. After class it was time to go home and prepare a meal for her husband as well as herself and the sons. Then the study: no electricity, no computer, no assistance from husband, but Teresa persevered.
When Teresa completed her secondary education it was a great day as she received news of passing her Senior 4 exams. She applied for teacher training at the Solidarity Teacher Training College in Yambio and was one of three women in her class but held her own with the male students. The day Teresa came for her first interview she was very ill with malaria and looked near death. But she was determined to win a place in the college as she had a desire to be a teacher. Fortunately she won a scholarship through JRS so was able to study. At the same time Teresa was caring for the growing family, not only cooking and cleaning and caring for the children but cultivating a garden some kilometres from her home in order to have food for her boys. Many a day we met Teresa returning in the evening from time spent in the garden, and then walking ten kilometres back home, usually carrying the youngest child at the time.
Teresa took a year off from study in the middle of the two year program due to another pregnancy. But she did not consider not completing the program and returned to the college as soon as it was feasible to do so. She looked after her children herself while studying. Many other mothers left their children with grandmothers or babysitters, but Teresa did not have family support so had to care for her own.
After Teresa graduated from the college she secured a position at the town’s Catholic school, one of the bigger local schools. She has spent these last years teaching the P1 children who are blessed to have a passionate, qualified teacher with them in their beginning years of formal education.
In 2020 Solidarity began a project introducing workshops to lead teachers into the new teaching methodology set out by the Government. The country is transitioning from teacher-centred teaching to child-centred. Quite a move for most teachers who have been writing on the chalkboard and having pupils copy what is written. Changing to actually involving the students in the learning is a major shift for all concerned. Teresa became one of the college graduates to take this program to schools and teachers in the local area. And what a committed workshop facilitator she was.
Following on from this was the opportunity for Teresa, along with two other women graduates, to study online from a UK university in order to get a degree in education. Teresa tackled this new challenge with energy and enthusiasm and is doing well.
As she continues her teaching at the primary school Teresa is now studying at tertiary level, as well as gardening for produce for her family to eat, and holding down a part-time job in order to supplement the family’s meagre income. Teachers in South Sudan are still very poorly paid and cannot support a family unless they have the opportunity for other employment and/ or, cultivating for themselves.
This woman is showing us what she is capable of, through her own initiative and enthusiasm for learning , and her continuous efforts to be a good primary school teacher. Teresa values education for herself, for her own children and for the children she teaches. All credit to her for her perseverance.
This is the story of one woman, but the essence of this is repeated all over South Sudan where women are seeking opportunities for learning and study and then pushing the boundaries so that this can happen. We wish them well!
8 Mar 2022
Margaret Scott, Former STTC Principal
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