Sudan came under joint British/Egyptian rule in 1899, and the Sultanate of Darfur was incorporated into greater Sudan in 1916. There has always been tension between the regions of the north and south, even before the country gained its independence in 1956. While the first civil conflict began in 1955, the past 21 years have seen the most brutal civil conflict rage between the mostly Muslim North and the predominantly Christian South. The United Nations estimates that as many as 2 million people may have been killed during that time with hundreds of thousands more displaced or victims of unspeakable crimes. While there has been some stability over the past two years, the violence still continues in some regions, and that is expected to escalate as the country prepares for the division of the nation into two separate states – Northern and South Sudan. This occurred in July 2011.
From 2001, increasing numbers of refugees from some of the areas of South Sudan most affected by the civil war began arrived in Australia as humanitarian refugees. The stories they told of the brutality and deprivation that their communities had been subjected to were shocking. While each had their own heart-rending stories, there was, right from the very start, a clear commitment to rebuilding their lives in their country and to do what they could to re-establish their communities back in Sudan. Years of civil war in the poorer South Sudan have been the dismantling of basic local infrastructure, including schools.
Education is highly valued in Sudan. As links between the newly arrived Sudanese refugees and local Sydney school and community groups developed, a desire to support the Sudanese community who had settled in Sydney create worthwhile educational opportunities for children back in Southern Sudan grew.
South Sudan Educates Girls (SSEG) was an initiative begun by two members of the local Sydney Sudanese community – Anna Dimo and Jonathon Ngor – who had arrived in Sydney as humanitarian refugees from the Southern Sudanese town of Aweil. With the support of local school and community groups, they established SSEG with the aim of building a secondary school for girls back in Aweil.
SSEG is now a fully functioning, volunteer grassroots organisation with membership open to all. All funds raised go directly to the Aweil project. Building of the school has been underway for some time and the first classes in the partially completed compound (named Mary Mackillop College) commenced in April 2011. It is expected that the school will be officially opened in early 2012.
A full outline of the scope of the project is included in these documents. It is hoped that the model used to build Mary Mackillop College in Aweil can be use to build schools in other South Sudanese communities.
The Hon Kevin Rudd MP, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, speech on the Independence of South Sudan
News from South Sudan
Map displaying the border between North and South Sudan
4 detailed maps of Sudan
Basic information about Aweil
Brief history of Sudan, from BBC
UNHCR’s page on Sudan…
‘What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng’
Preface (First Vintage Books Edition, October 2007)
‘Emma’s War: Love and Death in Sudan’s War’ Deborah Scroggins. HarperCollins. £ 17.99. 220 pages. ISBN 0-00-257027-0
A documentary about the history of civil war in Sudan and demonstrating the prospect of sustainable peace for Southern Sudan
A film about three of the young ‘lost boys’ of the civil war in Sudan. Directed by Jen Marlowe
‘Lost Boys of Sudan’ is a documentary that follows two Sudanese refugees on an extraordinary journey from Africa to America