“Never Before in This Village Have Women Held a Pencil”

That’s what one of the newest students at the women’s literacy class at the Rhumathoi Community Center proclaimed. Almost 30 women came out to say goodbye to me on my last day in Rhumathoi. The center started with two classes for a total of 20 women; we have capacity for 40, and, as head teacher Joseph Deng notes, “We could have 100, the interest is so high.”

The women's literacy classes turn out to say goodbye to Village Help for South Sudan director Lisa Deeley Smith. The center is behind the class.

The women’s literacy classes turn out to say goodbye to Village Help for South Sudan director Lisa Deeley Smith. The center is behind the class.

Mr. Deng, the headmaster of nearby Rhumathoi primary school, and two other teachers from the school lead the women’s literacy classes. A few women have had a little education and are starting with the South Sudan health curriculum for Primary 1 classes. (South Sudan’s curriculum is modeled Uganda’s and Kenya’s.) The majority of the women started with the ABCs; they had reached “U is for umbrella” by the time I left.

Women's literacy teacher Joseph Deng corrects a student's exercise book.

Women’s literacy teacher Joseph Deng corrects a student’s exercise book.

The students arrive in the afternoon early afternoon, work with one tea break (after they’ve finished the work in their exercise books), then begin the walk home around 5 p.m.

We are so proud of the women of Rhumathoi and the welcoming attitude of the community toward a women’s literacy class. Who knows how far they’ll go?

Students in the women's literacy class at Rhumathoi Community Center examine a corrected exercise book.

Students in the women’s literacy class at Rhumathoi Community Center examine a corrected exercise book.