Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


A feature of this new 2 + 1 blog is the “Timeline” tab. Have you seen it? It reflects concurrent events happening around the world, in the USA, Sudan and South Sudan while Africa ELI was getting established, developing programs, and educating secondary students. It’s interesting to look back and acknowledge some considerable successes, as well as to cringe when remembering some of our successful failures.

Back in 2008 when we opened our school doors for the first time, did we understand the need to stockpile food and fuel during the rainy season when we were flooded on campus for days without access to a market? Nope.

Did we know that sanitary pads for hundreds of girls were necessary to include in a school budget. Nuh-uh.

Did I know the nuances of language in another culture that allowed me to understand that hearing, “she is smart,” really means “she is dressed well” and not necessarily excelling in classes? I didn’t.

On the other hand, did Africa ELI quit serving young girls when we experienced insecurity at our original school out in the bush? No. We adjusted to our circumstances and developed public-private partnerships with existing schools to keep the girls in a productive, learning environment.

On days when the truck tires go flat and we get stuck on the side of a muddy road, delaying the start of a program, do we fold up and forget about it? Nope. We recognize that we cannot control all our circumstances but we can call on neighbors and partners for help to get us on the road again.

When students worry, fret, fight, or want to give up for all the reasons that teenagers have to act out, do we shrug our shoulders in defeat and say, “we tried,” and then walk away. Even on the days that option may seem attractive, we absolutely stay, rally and keep moving forward.

Africa ELI has staying power. What was an idea in 2005 has turned into a full-fledged, scrappy, nimble organization making it possible for a growing number of girls to get equal access to education in South Sudan. That’s what we do. With the continued encouragement and help of friends, partners and donors, we will keep doing it.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Student Profile : Sanduke

Today we want to introduce you to Africa ELI student, Sanduke, who attends school at Morobo Excel Academy. Sanduke is a bright and beautiful 18-year-old, and the daughter to two farmers. She first heard about Excel Academy on the radio, and she tells us that the teaching here is "very good." She now hopes to join Juba University after graduating so she can study Biology and become a doctor. Sanduke explains that in South Sudan, people lack doctors, and many children suffer from diseases like cholera and diarrhea.  Sanduke dreams of treating the sick and teaching them about health.  In fact, she wants to stay in her village once she becomes a doctor. "The people here, they don't know what health is," Sanduke says, and she intends to teach them.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Monday Mornings

Ever wonder what our Africa ELI students are doing at that very same moment as you're beginning a new week at work, checking your-email, starting your day off with a cup of coffee, or carpooling the kids to school? Here's your answer for Monday mornings : Students attend a school-wide assembly to begin their week. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Are We All on the Bus?

After spending a good deal of time introducing apparatuses, luminous and non-luminous flames, Excel Academy chemistry teacher, Mr. Salim asked the class, "Are we all on the bus?" He wanted to make sure the students understood his explanations and were gaining knowledge during the lesson.

Some student heads nodded affirmatively. Others made no motion. Some seemed to be hurriedly scribbling notes to read later in preparation for the test.

External forces competing with teachers in many South Sudan classrooms include sounds from beyond thin mud walls. Horns beep. Big birds with big feet loudly land above on the iron sheet roofing. Voices in neighboring classroom cause distraction. Babies cry nearby. Animals make noise. Yet through it all, the teachers persevere. They keep teaching.

In spite of all the kerfuffle, learning happens. Last week, I witnessed students responding well to questions posed by their instructors. In chemistry, physics, and history, I enjoyed observing small group discussions, full class debates, and traditional classroom instruction. In each case, with each subject and teacher, it did seem that everyone was "on the bus."

Africa ELI is pleased to be a part of the education process in South Sudan. We salute the teachers who show up, teach lessons, and encourage students to learn more each week. Step by step, day by day, progress is being made.

Mr. Salim teaches chemistry to over 100 students in a classroom at Excel Academy - Yei campus.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day, “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures” allows us an opportunity to pay tribute to the individuals across the world who are working for a more just and equal society. One such person is Ms. Winifridah Nekesa.

Born 28 years ago in Kenya, Ms. Winifridah graduated from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. She studied Geography and is now employed as a teacher for Excel Academy – Morobo Campus in South Sudan. Having focused her learning on how space and place influence factors such as climate, health, economics, animals and plants, she is now passing on her knowledge to the Excel students. When asked what she wants Americans to know about Africa, she responded, “Africans are also civilized. Many people think we live in the past, or that we are not up to date. But we Africans can perform to high expectations and can bring change in our society.” She would like to travel more in the future to see people and the culture of other countries.

It is her drive, determination, and curiosity about the world that contributes to Ms. Winifridah’s success as a teacher. Africa ELI salutes her. We know that she is indeed connecting girls, inspiring futures.
Ms. Winifridah connecting Excel Academy students with our Africa ELI volunteer, Mrs. Janis Hurd from Virginia Beach, VA.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Picture Worth A Thousand Words

What kind of sacrifices would you make to be educated? This Africa ELI student is so determined to go to school that she isn't deterred by our shortage of desks; she carries this stool from home everyday so she can sit through her classes--so she can learn. This kind of initiative and determination is what will make future leaders of South Sudan. 

Can you make a small sacrifice so she doesn't have to? It's $39 per wooden desk that seats 2 students. At least 75 more desks are currently needed for our students. If interested in funding a desk for a student like this one, please contact 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Yei Exam Results Are In!

Congratulations to the students and administration of Excel Academy - Yei Campus! In its first year of existence, the students end-of-year exam results gave Excel a # 4 ranking out of 12 secondary schools in the Yei area. As the newest school around, it is really an accomplishment to have such a successful academic year.

Africa ELI is expecting to soon receive all our sponsored students' exam results from 2011 (just being released this week) to see how individual girls and boys have progressed since the 2010 examination results came out.

(For perspective, receiving the end of year exam results is like finally getting your ACT or SAT scores.)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Student Profile : Amani

“Some girls just don’t know that they can have a bright future,” says Africa ELI sponsored student, Amani. “So many girls are forced to marry for the dowry money they bring to the family.” So what is a good age to get married? Amani answers, “25.” She thinks it will be good to marry after first completing an education and getting a job. We concur.

Amani is motivated to be an inspiration for her younger sister who attends primary school. Their father died in an auto accident last year and their mother is seriously ill, so Amani feels a responsibility to help instill a love of learning in all of her siblings. When asked to talk about who inspired her to take education seriously, she said that the pastors in her local Anglican church told her she could “do more” with an education. Especially after her father died, the pastors told her that she is still capable of “struggling” to achieve academic excellence.

 At 17-years-old, Amani has 2 years of high school ahead of her. She begins classes at Excel Academy – Mukaya Campus next week. Africa ELI will do our part to continue encouraging Amani in pursuit of her dream to become a nurse. We believe she is bright and certainly a beacon of light to her sisters and their friends.