Welcome to St. Bakhita Madame Helena

Although I have been taking classes with my standard 8 girls, today I officially became a teacher. In a small ceremony in the staff room, Sr. Margaret the Headmistress presented me with a box of chalk, a UNICEF notepad and a red pen. It was an emotional moment.

To celebrate I collected my girls homework books and I am at home now making full use of my red pen!

I was also presented to the school in a very short assembly. Most of the students (and indeed teachers!) have not yet returned despite school officially restarting yesterday. Sr. Margaret wanted the children who had returned to meet me because she didn’t want them wondering “who this strange white woman was coming to their school”! It was really touching when they sang the Welcome Song and I felt like I had officially become a Bakhita girl.

I teach maths to the standard 8 girls, all of whom are candidates for State exams in November. There are 36 girls in my class. Maths is by far the worst subject in the school. There are about 10 girls who work hard and show real potential but our of my class of 36, 24 failed their mid terms. One girl got 6 points. I was shocked – one can accumulate more than 6 marks by virtue of being able to count.

Interestingly very few of the strong candidates are Toposa. In fact very few of my standard 8 girls are Toposa. It is still difficult for young Toposa girls to break away from tradition and get an education. Many Toposa fathers use the excuse that educated women become prostitutes in Juba. The reality is that for many, their only interest in their daughters is the dowry they will get.

Still though, I am adamant that in the time I have left I’ll whip these girls into shape and we will have no failures. So, I take my classes during the day but go to the school for extra tuition for both the strong and the weak in the evenings.

I’m just praying that in December I will have good news from my girls!

Here is a picture of my classroom.

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