At last, A school library is created in Abyei
On Wednesday 7 December 2022 – two days after the United Nations’ International Volunteers’ Day – UN volunteers (UNVs) in Abyei continued to advance Sustainable Development Goal 4, ‘Quality Education’, by opening the first library ever to be created in Abyei. At the Comboni Nursery, Primary and Secondary School, the new library will host up to 1,500 students (1,100 of Primary/Nursery-age and 400 of Secondary-age) with the support of forty-one teachers, the head teacher and principal, the parent-teacher-association, and the Parish Father.
Due to so many students being displaced to Abyei from Agok and other areas affected by instability and conflict, the Comboni School is significantly under-resourced and lacks many of the basic amenities that every school ought to have. As part of their work to address this, the school’s administrators made every effort to open a library by asking for donations; however, these efforts were unsuccessful. Therefore, the unexpected support and initiative taken by UN volunteers was warmly welcomed and a source of great excitement for both the administrators and the school children.
Under the leadership of the Chief of Operations and Resources Management, Joseph Twine, UNISFA’s personnel facilitated the opening of the library: armed with a list compiled by the school’s administration, the UN volunteers procured textbooks and other resources, including dictionaries, maps, charts, toys, paper, shelves and writing tools, to the joyful chanting and jubilation of the students. Confident that the initiative should continue to develop, the school administration responded with enthusiasm and affirmed that the library is the first of its kind in Abyei.
Rosane Santino, who is a 21-year-old student from Senior 4 at Comboni School, shared her thoughts on what the library will mean for both her peers and her teachers: “For sure studies will go on better, because you have provided us with books. Even during break time, we can go to the library and look for solutions to difficult class questions. Our teachers will now teach us very well, unlike before when they lacked books. Now, I hope what was against us is solved, and we thank you for that.” Upon being asked whether there was a library before she responded: “No! We didn’t have a library. We planned to have one, and many people told us they would volunteer to help, but because of the situation we ran from Agok and came here [Abyei]. Then the volunteers did not come back again, but now you have come.”
Jok Puat, a teacher in the English department of Comboni Secondary School said, “The library will empower this generation and show them what to do with their lives. We have faced some challenges, but now the challenges will be overcome. We did not have a library before, and it will change the lives of the students. At first, when we gave questions to the children, they found it too hard to respond because the internet is costly, not affordable for many and very slow. Now, they will go to the library and search for answers to these questions. That is a great achievement of the UNISFA in Abyei.”
Capturing the excitement of the event and its importance to the entire school’s community, Bah Manik Deng, a 19-year-old science student said, “Before today, we never had a library, and we are so excited – we can’t even tell you how much. It will aid our learning for some subjects. For example, Chemistry has been very complicated for us – as a science student, you have a headache from trying to understand without enough resources. There is a particular book we need, and I told our headmaster to tell you [the UNVs] about it. I hope the book is also there [in the library] but if not, I trust you will bring it soon. It will also ease the collection of information among our teachers”.
“The help this library will bring is by nurturing research and the spirit/culture of reading,” observed the Principal of the Secondary section, Mr. Mading, elated by the events of the day: “Most of our students don’t have books at home where they can get more information. Now they have a library here and we will train them. Some of them do not know how to use dictionaries, or how words are arranged alphabetically. This will open their minds, so that when they go to any place in the world, they will be familiar with how to do research. When they go to other countries like Uganda and Kenya, it will be very easy for them to interact and integrate with the others.”
This historic and momentous day ended with dances and displays of art and gifts from the students of Comboni school to the UNISFA staff.