South Sudan Education Fund
Father Martin O’Reilly will be cycling in the NY 5 Borough’s Cycle on May 6th in order to raise funds for the education of Ageer and Mary. Please consider sponsoring him and assisting these wonderful young women.
Checks can be made Payable to St. Catharine Church, and sent to 215 Essex Avenue, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 Attn: South Sudan
Online Donations can be made HERE
Reverend John Skinnader is a Spiritan (formerly known as the Holy Ghost Fathers) and a friend of Rev. Martin O’Reilly from Monaghan County Ireland. He is currently doing missionary work in Rumbek, South Sudan.
The following are passages from Father John and two young women in South Sudan, Mary and Agger, both are trying to escape arranged marriages and hope to study at the University in Nairobi, Kenya. Tuition is approximately $3,000 per student per year. Both Ageer and Mary will need to reside in Kenya while they complete their studies. If they return home there is a possibility of being forced into marriage.
From Father John
In South Sudan, when a woman is getting married, the husband to be must give up to a hundred cows to the family of the bride. Normally, a man hasn’t got this number of cows -so his brothers step in and give him some cows from their own herds, with the understanding that as soon as the woman/ bride has a daughter when she reaches puberty she will be married off so that the cows can be returned to his brothers and with interest!! An extra few cows given. That is why the uncles are so powerful in this society and so dangerous – they are always waiting in the wings to get their cows back with interest.
At Christmas, the sisters asked me that if I was staying around Rumbek over the Christmas, could I come and stay in their compound/convent to give more security to the place as they were all going to Ireland for Christmas. Orla, the Principal/Superior told me that I would be on my own in the convent as all the girls had gone home for their Christmas holidays. However, two days before I was due to go there, Orla told me that one of the girl’s father had come to her and asked her if it would be possible for his daughter to stay in the convent as her mother and uncles wanted to force her into marriage and he would be powerless to stop them if she came home for Christmas. So, Orla agreed that Ageer could stay in the convent, if she could get one of her friends to stay with her. She got a friend to stay with her and they stayed outside in the dormitory. I was quite shaken when I met her and heard her story as there was the possibility that the uncles could come to the convent with the police or army and take her by force!! How would I stop them? Thank God it didn’t happen, and I learned more of Ageer’s story over the Christmas.
Fortunately for Ageer, her father is an educated man and wants his daughter educated. As he said to me, I don’t want my daughter having to wash her dress at night to put it back on the next day. Meaning, uneducated people have very few resources.
Sr. Orla tries to get scholarships for the girls, but she must restrict herself to scholarships for education and health as she has so many girls to cater for… Orla says that Ageer is a good teacher but Ageer told me that she hates teaching. She has her heart set on doing IT. She is a quiet girl with a bubbly personality. Very inquisitive to learn.
Her mother is uneducated and that is why she is siding with the uncles to try and stop her education. As I said before, when Ageer was going to primary school, her mother used to throw water on her books while she would be reading and force her to do housework when there was no need to do it.
Ageer was studying in Loreto and completed Form 4 (High School Senior) last year. She was then asked to teach in the Loreto primary school until the sisters could find scholarships for her and the other girls to go to college or university.
“This is how I struggled to be in school. My mother never wanted me to be educated. She stopped me from going to school, but I escaped and bring my teachers home to talk to her. Then she gave me conditions to be working in the garden and cook before going to school, I tried to manage all that work to make her happy. Also, she wet my books and prevent me from revising my books. I never gave up, I brought my teachers home to threaten her for spoiling school materials. She decided with my uncles and brother to take me to cattle camp, I stayed in cattle camp for 6 months. I escape to come back home, then conditions got worst, domestic work was added, and I could go to school at 11:00am for some lessons. Then when I passed to primary 8 it was the worse year of all, she gave me to much work to do so that I don’t revise my books, then I used to read in the night. Then when she discovered that I was reading at night she told me to be washing utensils and fetch water at night. I finally made it to passed to senior one through my teachers.”
“Good evening Father. I’m feeling disappointed with what my father did today he was convinced, and he fooled me to meet him, yet he was going to show me to people for marriage. Guess what, the guy who wanted to marry me was a rich old man with many children and he wanted a second wife; this sounds so sad to me. This is madness I can’t be married to an old man. I don’t deserve such a man. Despite the fact of my studies I don’t want to marry an old man. I told my daddy to be patient to allow me to go for studies after I got my degree in university I will get married to young good man and I can support the family and I told him father John is working hard to get my scholarship and I will go to school soon. Good night Father”
Mary’s Story written by her sister Awut
Mary comes from Rumbek East Community, she went to Kenya because people were forcing her for early marriages, she became a refugee in Kenya because she did not have a lot of support from anyone apart from the little I do for them. In Kenya, you cannot stay without a valid document that validate your stay, so she cannot return to South Sudan before she finishes her studies. Her father is 80-year-old pastoralist of his time and he is in the village, he was threatened by the relatives because he was standing up for us to go to school, when he could not bear the threats anymore he gave us permission to leave our country so that we free ourselves from the bondage of early and forceful marriages.