Building a School in Southern Sudan: Education and Community Development in a Post-Conflict Region

Tuesday, April 29, 2008
7:00-8:30 p.m.
Brown 224
Brandeis University

Aduei Riak will discuss her current efforts to build a secondary school in Malek Village (Jonglei State, Southern Sudan), a community devastated by many years of war. Ms .Riak is partnering with the New Sudan Education Initiative (NESEI) to create a high quality educational institution in this deeply traumatized region. She will discuss opportunities for Brandeis students and classes to partner with this exciting education and community development project.

Ms. Riak (Brandeis '07) will also share reflections on the importance of education in her own life, in light of her experiences as a refugee displaced since early childhood by the Sudanese civil war. At Brandeis, she majored in Anthropology & International and Global Studies. She currrently serves on the Board of Director of the Sudanese Education Fund, a non-profit that helps Southern Sudanese in the Greater Boston area achieve their higher educational goals.

Co-sponsored by STAND, the Department of Anthropology, International and Global Studies, the Community Engaged Learning program and the M.A. Program in Cultural Production.

For more information, please contact Professor Mark Auslander, Department of Anthropology, Brandeis University. (781)736-2214.

Background information on the "Malek Academy"

The Malek Academy is the vision and passion of Aduei Riak, one of the few young women who were able to resettle in the U.S. after the civil war that devastated Sudan. As a result of that war, Aduei walked thousands of miles with a “river of people” in order to survive. Today, Aduei is a successful woman of the Sudanese diaspora, who has just graduated from Brandeis University, has started a promising career, and is working to help her people in Sudan. Malek has a storied place in Sudan’s history. Situated on the Nile, it was a prosperous fishing and farming community and a famous educational center. South Sudan’s first church and secondary school were built there in 1905 by Aduei’s great-grandfather, Achok, and Archibald Shaw, an English missionary and educator. Now, the school, the village and the farms lie in ruins. Aduei visited Malek in 2006 and, inspired by the desperate needs of her people, she formed a vision of building a school that would serve the desperate need for education in the region. With help from generous donors, Aduei and NESEI will open the Malek Academy in April of 2009. The school curriculum (grades 7-12) will focus on Malek’s specific cultural and environmental needs.

Women and girls: Young women and girls are key to Sudan’s peaceful and prosperous future. They have broad responsibilities vis-à-vis family health issues and also the economic security for their children, and they manage the majority of crop-based farming. Yet, over 93% of women and girls are illiterate. The situation in Malek is particularly dire: there is very low agricultural production, Dinka girls are rarely sent away to school and most are not educated beyond early primary school. The Malek School of Agricultural Science will also provide transition primary education, scholarships and post-graduate assistance to girls and young women.

Agriculture: South Sudan today relies almost entirely on foreign aid for its food. Most of the population is malnourished or under-nourished. With access to the Nile and fertile lowlands, Malek is perfectly situated for an agricultural school. The Malek Academy will provide specialized education and hands-on experience, and allow graduates to create agricultural opportunities, increase production and market excess yields. The curriculum will include: Small plot farm and fishery development, crop rotation and disease control, innovative environmental and perma-culture techniques, and general business and marketing skills.
Cultural sensitivity: Many aid programs fail in this region because they do not have the support of village and refugee leaders who can negotiate rivalries and cultural customs. Aduei’s Malek roots and her credibility will allow her to inspire Malek’s community its official and refugee leaders to support the school project. Her education and success will allow her to bridge the cultural gap between Sudanese in the field and U.S. experts and givers.

Social Entrepreneurship: Most successful developing economies are based not on government programs but on empowerment opportunities – giving potential entrepreneurs access to capital to build small businesses and skills to manage them. Combining education with viable micro lending will accelerate Sudan’s economic growth. The top graduates of the Malek Academy will receive micro-loans to develop incubator commercial fisheries and small plot farms and to market agricultural yield.

For more information, please contact Ms. Aduei Riak: