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Take Girls Destined for Early Marriage Elsewhere, Catholic School in South Sudan Warns

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The administration of a Catholic boarding secondary school for girls in South Sudan has pleaded with parents to present for enrollment only those girls that can stay in school for the entire four-year period of studies away from early marriages against the backdrop of increased demand for admission at the institution that has limited slots annually.

Sr. Orla Treacy, the Principal of Loreto Secondary School of South Sudan’s Diocese of Rumbek called on parents to stop enrolling girls that they intend to withdraw from the school for marriage before they are able to complete their studies. This, the school Principal said, denies more committed girls the valuable opportunity for formal education.

“Our appeal to parents and to girls is that, if you are serious about study and you can make the commitment for four years, come. If you know your daughter has that ability to study for four years, then send her to school,” Sr. Treacy told Good News Radio (GNR) of the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek (DOR), a Rumbek-based radio that is part of the Catholic Radio Network (CRN).

She added, “If you (parent) think after one or two years you are going to be looking into your daughter’s marriage, or you think she, herself is going to look at marriage, then please don’t waste our time and your time.”

The Irish-born Loreto nun urged both parents and girls notorious for abandoning their studies midway to “choose another school” in the upcoming academic years emphasizing that the Catholic school she has administered from its inauguration has become strict in its enrollment exercise.

Opened in 2006, Loreto Secondary School is run by the Institute for the Blessed Virgin Mary of Ireland, also called Loreto Sisters, to educate women and prevent child marriages in South Sudan.

Early and forced marriages are widespread in the world’s newest nation and only 35 percent of girls in the country get an education, reports have shown. A 2019 report by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) indicates that in some parts of South Sudan, girls as young as 13 or 14 are forced by their families to marry much older men. 

A majority of the girls, Sr. Treacy reported during the interview with GNR, get married annually during the holidays. She decried the trend, saying that the repeated drop out of girls had negatively impacted on school’s funding.

“Few students have been married over the holidays. It is something we get every year,” she said and explained, “Our work is dependent on donors who want to see results.”

The 47-year-old nun lamented that while some girls failed to get chances to enroll into the school, a significant number of those admitted eventually dropped out of school leaving their positions unoccupied.

“Out of over 400 girls that came for the entrance exam last year, we could only accept 100. The other 300 went home disappointed,” Sr. Treacy disclosed.

In reference to the girls that get admitted at the institution, the member of the 411-year-old institute said, “If we accept one of those girls, and after one year she decides she is going to get married, or the family decides that she is going to get married, she disappoints us. And She has disappointed the girl that didn’t get that position.”

Charles Uyga, the Head Teacher at Loreto girls’ secondary school in Rumbek said that parents who withdraw their girls from the school to marry them off breach the commitment they undertake with the school administration.

“This has happened several times; it is really very challenging that there are some families after having committed themselves that the girl will remain in school, it is the same family that comes for this student who is enrolled in the school,” decried Mr. Uyga.

“Every student who is enrolled here is attached to a scholarship and we see it a waste of space when a girl is taken out (for) early and forced marriage,” the Catholic teacher explained.

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