Opening the door to Grace...

Posted by Sarah Caughey on Thu, 08 Jul 2010 | Bookmark: digg this Post this to del.icio.us Post this to Facebook

In many parts of Africa, the opening of a school is a ‘red-letter day’ and is a cause for much celebration. This was certainly the case when an enthusiastic crowd of almost 3,000 people, including the Minister for Education, gathered recently for the opening of Grace Secondary School in the Nuba Mountains, Southern Sudan.

For Bishop Andudu of Kadugli Diocese and for Dorset couple Richard and Claire Budd, the moment when the Minister cut the blue, ceremonial ribbon was the realisation of a long-held dream. And this official ‘re-opening’ was also a joyous event for CMS Ireland, who had helped secure funds towards the building of the school.

This area of Sudan has seen much suffering during the 21 years of civil war and strife, with entire communities having to leave their homes, and important infrastructures such as schools being destroyed, including the school that was once on this site. An estimated 2% of the population of Southern Sudan is educated to primary school level. Secondary schools are extremely rare.

Following the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, refugees and internally displaced people have been returning to their homes to rebuild communities for the future. This school is an important part of this rebuilding process, offering the next generation an opportunity for education and to contribute to the development of their country.

Grace Secondary School is a beacon of hope for young people in this remote area. The boarding school’s first intake was 120 pupils – girls and boys, Muslim and Christian. Richard and Claire initiated the project following Richard’s visit to Sudan, during which he met a young man who was unable to go to school. The couple have been raising funds for the school since 2008 to cover building and running costs.

Despite the heat and the long journey that many had to make to attend the opening ceremony, it was a time filled with much joy and celebration. A red-robed choir led the way to the school doors, where the Minister for Education cut the ribbon to an outburst of singing, dancing, pipe-blowing and speeches. Richard attended the opening ceremony and took the photographs that accompany this story.

CMS Ireland was delighted to partner with the Diocese of Kadugli and Bishop Andudu on this project, contributing £24,000 to help complete the building. Reflecting on the impact of the school, Partnership Coordinator David Gough comments:

“After 21 years of war the re-opening of this Secondary School is really significant. Try to imagine it: most schools were destroyed during the war and any education which survived took place under a mango tree. Today there are still many 20 year olds without an education, some are still attending Primary School.”

This is a great endeavour and will make a huge impact upon the lives of young people in the surrounding communities in years to come, giving them hope for a better future.

In addition to this event being the fulfilment of the dreams of the Bishop, David, Clair and many from the local community, it is also an extremely happy event for a lady from County Down. Maureen Donnelly, a parishioner of Down Cathedral, served along with her husband as a missionary in Kadugli and has been praying for the school to be operational once again. We thank God that Maureen’s prayers have been answered. Speaking about the re-opening of the school, Maureen shares:

“This is a wonderful effort to re-open the secondary school. I am so grateful to CMS Ireland for the part that they have played. The country has been in turmoil, and the people of Nuba Mountains have been subject to years of civil war and disturbances. They need good leaders. This school will be able to provide good, strong leadership for the future.”

For more information on CMS Ireland’s partnerships in Sudan, please click here

Photography www.richardbudd.co.uk <http://www.richardbudd.co.uk/> © 2010