Notre Dame student starts non-profit benefitting South Sudan
Andrea Vale | Wednesday, April 27, 2016
In 2005, Majak Anyieth left his family behind in South Sudan to go to Kenya in pursuit of an education. When he returned eight years later, he found that little had improved in his home country in terms of educational opportunities. Traditional conflicts between neighboring communities were still in full play — but Anyieth, having spent eight years in a different country, had realized that conflict wasn’t always unavoidable.
“I learn(ed) from my experience in Kenya that I could live harmoniously with people from other communities … I had been taught otherwise growing up,” Anyieth, now a junior at Notre Dame, said in an email.
Motivated by his experiences, Anyieth started Education Bridge, a non-profit aimed at creating educational opportunities and lessening violence in South Sudan.
“Education Bridge is a non-profit organization that is striving to promote peace and education in South Sudan,” Anyieth said. “We organize week-long seminars for teaching high school students nonviolent conflict resolution skills, teamwork, negotiation and other entrepreneurial skills. In so doing, we also invite students to learn about other communities and challenge many stereotypes that fuel inter-communal conflict in the country.”
According to Anyieth, in the past Education Bridge has run conflict resolution seminars as well as a campaign titled “I Need Peace.” The campaign aimed to “help voice the will of ordinary people who are suffering the consequences of a recent conflict that left 2.5 million people displaced and many thousands dead.”
Anyieth noted that illiteracy and “traditional hostilities” have led to many young South Sudanese citizens becoming involved in intertribal conflict and other forms of violence. Subsequently, Education Bridge works to confront two major issues within the country: education and violence.
“South Sudan has one of the lowest literacy levels in the world, merely at 27 percent,” Anyieth said, “That of girls is even worse at 16 percent. The lack of education means lack of human capital in the country. No health systems. 51 percent of the country lives below poverty line. Because of illiteracy and economic struggles, there is a lot of violence involving cattle raiding and other disputes. We believe education can open a door for a more peaceful and prosperous country … It is for this reason that we are doing everything we can to provide educational opportunities for young South Sudanese. We hope in so doing, we will not lose another generation to illiteracy, poverty and violence.”
Education Bridge is currently working on constructing a secondary school in Bor, South Sudan. Once completed in January 2017, the school will provide much-needed educational opportunities to 200 students and, Anyieth hopes, “inter-communal dialogues … providing them with educational opportunities but also with a chance to learn about other communities; deconstructing stereotypes and highlighting our oneness.” The school will employ the nonviolent conflict-resolution seminars previously developed by Education Bridge.
“I was awarded the Dalai Lama fellowship last year, which provided us with some funding to help start the project,” Anyieth said, “Right now, we are fundraising the remaining funds to help finish our school construction this summer and to help organize teacher training in preparation for opening in January 2017. We need $15,000 to finish everything.”
“We have also started partnering with different organizations like Mercy Beyond Borders, which will be providing scholarships to some of our students from poor families. Though it causes only $300 to attend school for one year, not many families can afford [it]. These scholarships will also be critical to promoting girls’ education, as many families are hesitant to invest in girls’ education for cultural reasons.”
Students who wish to help can donate unwanted books to Education Bridge’s book drive, or donate to school-building efforts.
“I [hope] that through Education Bridge, I can mobilize a group of like-minded people, to put our time and energy into changing the fate of our community by creating educational opportunities and rethinking how we tell our stories to foster a created of a more united country,” Anyieth said.