“My name is Gabriel Deng Mabior. I am 61 years old. I am a parent and the Chairperson of the School Management Committee (SMC) in Warallel Primary school in Aweil West County of Lol State. My daughter; Elizabeth Nyantu Mabior goes to this school. She is 16 years old and is in P7 this year.
I would like to give my appreciation to the UK government who are the donors of this project that has come to support my daughter and other girls in our State. Before GESS came, there were no girls in schools. I have been a parent in this school long enough to witness this. There were times when less than 10 girls completed their primary school education.
While most people want to blame poverty for this situation, I want to disagree. For example, apart from Elizabeth, I had 3 other daughters whom I married off to get cows. This is not because of poverty, but more to do with our culture where a girl child is a source of wealth. We, the Dinka, preferred to have boys in schools while our girls stayed at home to help with house chores and later given to the person who brought the most cows as dowry. All my elder daughters got married when they were only 15 years old.
In 2014, GESS started and we were told the Programme was here to support girls go to school. At first, community members seemed not ready to accept a ‘white man’s’ concept that wanted to come and erode our culture that has been with us for so long and which many had not find any problems with. The traditional leadership had indicated that they would not allow something that would try to change the way things are done in the village. It took several meetings involving UMCOR (GESS ‘State Anchor’ in former Northern Bahr el Ghazal), Ministry of Education officials and the traditional leaders to convene a meeting to discuss the purpose of the Programme.
It was at the meeting that all the issues such as girls getting money, parents not paying school fees and the final issue that attracted the attention of the traditional leadership was when the UMCOR and Ministry of Education team stated that once the girls go through schools, we would get more cows once they got married. The team also stated that community leaders or their selected representatives would be part of a decision-making team that would decide how to improve the schools and see how money provided by the donors was to be used.
Later in the year, I was elected to be the Chairperson of SMC of this school and attended a training on the importance of girl’s education and on how to take part in improving the schools to make them better for our children.
It is GESS that has rescued Elizabeth from being married off, if the Programme was delayed, she would have been married by now. Having learnt the importance of education, I feel so bad that I did not give my other daughters the opportunity to access education. I have even apologized for what I did to them, and while they laughed about it, I was feeling bad in the inside that I deprived them of the opportunity that I made.
While I cannot change what I did in the past, I have been given an opportunity to make it better for Elizabeth. I have offered to use all my available resources to see to it that she gets the best education. This is the only way I feel I can make up for my past mistakes.
In 2015, my daughter Elizabeth started receiving GESS money (Cash Transfer to girls) and she was able to buy a uniform, exercise books, and pens, last year she got 2,300 SSP which she used to buy scholastic materials and she even gave me some little money for chai (laughs). This year she received money and she will be buying shoes and a new uniform for next year.
Warallel Primary School is now surviving because of GESS. We all know that our government has so many challenges right now and cannot fully support quality education. We thank God that GESS came in when we needed them most. Were it not for the GESS project donors, life for our children and teachers would have been unbearable.”
The Girls’ Education South Sudan (GESS) is a holistic programme that combines cash transfers with other interventions, such as behavior change communications, grants to schools and teacher training. This comprehensive approach aims to tackle all of the barriers to girls’ education.