The civil war in South Sudan broke out in 2013. The violence has led to profound social divisions and distrust which will take years to heal but in the short term people across South Sudan are confronted with problems of how to keep essential public services, such as schools, functioning. In a context in which there is no functioning banking system and where even basic infrastructure like roads and bridges have been destroyed or fallen into dis-repair the only way to reach schools and to pay teachers is by walking. But in the Nile Valley, walking can often mean wading through waist high water.
Unity State, in the north of the country, had suffered historical marginalisation and neglect for decades, but the crisis that swept through South Sudan in the wake of the outbreak of war had especially devastating effects on the people who lived there and the state’s education facilities. One of the most acute problems was that teachers were simply not being paid – and that in turn led to high rates of absenteeism or even school closures because teachers had to find other ways to feed and support themselves and their families. The European Union recognised the scale of the problem and set up a programme in 2017, called IMPACT, to pay teachers a supplement of approximately $40 per month provided they were registered as being a current teacher.
Handling cash in this way, in insecure areas, requires the highest level of risk management to protect both our staff and the funds. There are complex procedures to ensure that only the individuals entitled to receive the IMPACT payments are given the money.
In remote and inaccessible states and counties, however, where there is no road network, where there are no cars and where even a motor bike cannot pass, the only way of delivering the teachers’ salaries is by walking to each school. This requires staff with unquestionable personal integrity as well as extraordinary levels of determination and perseverance. In Mayendit County, twenty five primary schools and two secondary schools are included in the IMPACT programme – and WTI relies on staff like Rwot Mark, who is based in the county, to keep the education system going.
In October 2019, Mark had to walk for 7 to 8 hours in water all the way from Mayendit South to Mayendit North with the payment agents in order to deliver the IMPACT payments. In the words of his manager, Loke Justin, “It takes a high degree of sacrifice and dedication to one’s community to do such kind of work”.