On December 10th, Good Shepherd Academy (GSA) in Juba South Sudan conducted its first graduation ceremony under the theme of raising servant leaders for the next generation in South Sudan. The ceremony saw fourteen (14) pupils graduating from the Nursery Top class and promoted to standard one of primary level. The event was combined with the end term prayer day. Some 500 hundred people including children attended the event. A procession led by the police music band marched on the road covering about 2 miles in Gumbo Sherikat. There was great encouragement from the event. It was a colorful day with lots of jubilation. A bull was slaughtered for the children, invited guests and community to share a meal and enjoy feasting. It was a great time, with inspirational speeches, remarks, prayers and blessing from parents, teachers, community leaders, and pastors. Rt. Revd. Daniel Deng Abot, Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Duk presided over the ceremony and awarded the certificates of completion and recognition.
Performance by the school children
The Children made remarkable performances including singing, dances, drama, reciting the Lord’s prayer, and a poems. One the outstanding poem was entitled War, War, War:
Every day, people are running; war, war, war, everywhere people are suffering; war, war, war, each day people are crying; war, war, war, every day, people are dying. When shall war stop in South Sudan? We the children of GSA want the war to stop. We need peace, unity and above all, education.
Margret Chol Atem, promoted to Primary 2, led the children as they recite the poem. It was such a moving and powerful poem. Almost everyone in the gathering shed tears. Everyone stood and applaud the children.
There was joy and happiness. Acholi dance was performed by the children. The children who performed Acholi dance were not all from Acholi tribe, but a mix of children from various South Sudanese tribes including Acholi, Dinka, Bari, Pheri, Nuer, Lotuho, Madi and Darfur!
The drama: Lets lift up together
Children played a drama called let’s lift together. A table was put on the stage. The teacher invited each child to lift it up by himself or herself, but the child could not lift it alone. Another child is asked to join, and two could lift, but not as easy, the third, the fourth, the sixth and the seventh and until all the seven lift up the table together, and they were able to easily lift up the table. The teacher explains that the table is a school. The participants lifting up the school include a teacher, a PTA, a government Rep, a friend/partner, a pastor, founder, pupil and neighbor. Each representative was called and ask to lift up alone, but it wasn’t possible to lift up. However, when they all joined together, they lifted it up easily. The teacher added that one person cannot lift up school alone. We all must lift up GSA together. The teacher and children summarized in unison and said loudly, that: coming together is beginning, keeping together is progress, and working together is success.
Song by the pupils of GSA
Honey of the bee is so sweet, but education is sweeter than the honey of the bee. Parents, give us education. We need education. Parents give us school materials, we need education, Friends, give us text books, we need education. John Daau, give us porridge in school, we need education. Bishop pray for us, to the mighty God, we want to come back to Good Shepherd Academy, our school. I want to be like our teacher Madam Achol, Peter, David, I will come back to GSA, my school. May the blessing of Jesus be forever in Good Shepherd Academy.
Awards were given. Among those awarded included s Clean pupil of the year, the most disciplined and humble pupil of the year and most improved pupil. Some parents were also awarded certificates of recognition for their volunteer work and support to the school.
Remarks by PTA representative Mr. Biar Kuei
As parents, we have a major role to play in the education of our children. It’s our obligation to pay school fees and keep the children in school. We must ensure that the children are in school. We have to help them to come to school. We have to help them stay away from the attractions of the world. We are blessed to have a Christian based school that will teach our children the fear of the Lord. This will keep our children away from the dangers of the world. Many of you are aware that many children are out of school, either due to lack of school or no one helping them to keep them in school. There are many other children who are playing outside their homesteads. Other children also on the street. Let’s raise our children in the knowledge of God. Now that God has provided us with school, let’s keep our children in school. Do not allow your child to stay away from school. Do not allow them to run around without school. Do not let them remain home without school.
Remarks by community elder Akuei Chuol
The school is a good home for children to teach morality and values. And now that we are blessed with school which teaches children the values of God, we must keep our children attending it. To my little angels graduating today, this is the beginning of a long journey. It’s the beginning of the next 16 years of learning so that you will be the leader to change South Sudan. We are so encouraged to see you beginning. This has increased my hope and the reason of being alive. I want to keep seeing good things happening such as graduation and progress of our dear children. I am tired of the long war in South Sudan. Each day we are gathering for funeral, not for celebrations such as this. I am grateful to my God for letting a joy happen among us today. It’s happening in the month of December when we are expecting the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Many years ago, in the region of Dinka Bor, there was one white men called Machuor (Archibald Shaw, a missionary) who was living in our community. He was the only one educated. But later on, through his work, few other men were educated. Among them were Bishop Nathaniel Garang Anyieth and Dr. John Garang Mabior. Bishop Garang taught us the word of God to liberate us from the powers of jok (Satan). Dr. Garang taught us the word of liberation, and we joined the liberation struggle to liberate us from the oppression of Arab. Through their work, we had many others who are now educated, like John Chol who has established this school. Now in this school, among these little children graduating, will be leaders like Dr. John Garang and bishop Nathaniel Garang. I want to keep praying to Jesus so that these little children will be fed with his word and good education. Revd. John, keep our children in your school, many of them are orphan children and children from the widows. Take care of them, and Jesus will continue to feed them.
Remarks by the Head Teacher of St. Peter’s Primary School
As a neighboring school, let’s join hands together to bring these children in the knowledge of God and with good education. As teachers, we aim to build and develop good leaders of tomorrow. We shall not want to grow the leaders who will be thieves, robbers, war mongers, dividers and not the drunkard. We want to grow leaders who love and care for their people.
Remarks by women representative Nyibol Deng
I feel like we are celebrating our independence today! We are used to witnessing and experiencing multitude of people flocking on to the roads running and screaming to escape war. But today, I was filled with awe, with children led by a music band and marching on the road for joy but not for fear. I received two invitations from two different schools. I chose to come here, but I was overjoyed that I was not invited for funerals, but for celebration of our little children whom we have suffered with. Today’s celebration reveals good work of our son John Chol. This also reveals good work of a good leader. I come from Wanglei village where John Chol comes from and its my hope John Chol will extend this school to Wanglei. I will continue to pray for him and others so that they may bring schools to our villages. I do hope the next agenda will be the health centre for our children. I want to encourage one another, that we must support those individuals who are willing to build our nation. If those with wealth and power refuses to build schools for our children. let’s keep supporting those small leaders who want to develop the nation. Let’s support them by keeping our children in school. We have something little, let’s share it with them so that our children can learn and grow with education. We do not want our children to be like us again. No one built for us school in our time. The Arab leaders did not consider to build schools for our children. Immediately after independence we were hoping to have good life, and to live no more in conflict. But we are now disappointed, our sons who were liberating us from Arab have turned to each other and we’re now turning the guns on ourselves. How can we have peace so that our children would go to school with no fear. Women, let’s keep praying. What else can we do? Our sons do not want to listen and to feel the pain and suffering of their mothers and children? It’s only God who will change their hearts to turn away guns from each other. John Chol, you continue with your good work. We the poor will be around you and support you. You are son of the poor and you must remember and continue to work with the poor. You will continue to comfort the widows by allowing their children to attend your school. I thank the teachers, the music band for today’s celebration.
Singing by Youth Mama
Remarks by the representative of Youth Mama
We were so surprised today! We saw children moving and marching on the road. Shortly, they were joined by multitude of people, streaming to the road and joining the march. We thought, it was a Christmas marching and procession! We are used to the incidents of many people running on the road usually accompanied by cries, screams and desperation to run away for safety. But today is a reverse created by the Good Shepherd Academy. This is our hope, to see many more graduations, processions and singing, not running away for safety, not the cries of the desperate people, but the shout of joyful people is what we want to keep seeing. Mothers, do not insult or abuse children at home, encourage them, and help them improve. Praise them of their work at school, in church and home.
Remarks by the Rt Revd. Daniel Deng Abot, guest speaker
Thank you to GSA choir, and dancing group. I am grateful. You the children have taught us today that peace and togetherness is what South Sudan wants. I am challenged, that you could easily form your choir and dancing group with mix of people from different tribes. You the adults, shouldn’t we learn from this lesson the children are teaching us? The choir and dancing group is a combination of many tribes. You have taught us a new culture, that the leaders of South Sudan have failed to understand.
dsc_9092-copyI want to say we always commit a big mistake, by thinking that we can see big things immediately and we fail to notice small things which can lead us to bigger things. Today the small children have taught us about small things. They have started their small unity among themselves through their choir and dancing group. Small initiative but with big impact and meaning.
We need to start small. Each building starts with one brick. From little things come bigger things. A vision has come to pass today. John Chol got his vision 12 years ago. He struggled with it. His wife joined the vision. She saw it in a different way. She proposes that the vision must start small, and must start from the small children in order to nurture them to become leaders who can change nation in the future. The vision to raise servant leaders for the next generation is a grand vision. It’s a vision for solution. Among the children graduating today, I see Salva Kiir among them, I see Archbishops and Bishops of our nation among these little ones. It’s a matter of time, and these kids will change our country. With the godly education, and formation from the biblical rooted teaching, a teaching with values and character, these children you see before you today, will transform our nation, just a matter of time.
I want to say clearly today; we have forgotten the idea of preparing leaders. South Sudan has under estimate the essential activity to prepare leaders. We currently lack this thinking. We are not working for it. This is a challenge we must address. We must tune our planning for things, that will help the next generation. We currently focus on what will benefit us now and we forget to tune our plans for the things to lay foundation for the future generation.
Today John Chol, his wife Sarah, their friends and teachers of GSA have started small. They have started to lay a foundation. To grow the leaders from their tender age. To nurture them with Jesus based education.
Today’s graduation is an important occasion for me and for the people of South Sudan. We are always gathered for funeral meetings, but today we are gathered for a celebration and hope for the future. Time has come for us to build up our nation. As one writer said “good life is inspired by love of knowledge”
These children have given themselves to love of knowledge. Their parents have helped them to give themselves for love of knowledge. I want to urge all parents and guardians, please let your children attend Good Shepherd Academy and other schools. They will be trained in the fear of the Lord. I am seeing something is coming through these children in the near future. We must nurture them. We the leaders of South Sudan seem to be not caring about the right of children. They have the right for education. They have the right to be loved. But, when you see what is happening in our country, we are not respecting the rights of our children. The conflict is everywhere in this country. There is no peace. How can our children learn? How can they love when they see the opposite? They see every day hatred, and division.
Good life is a process. It’s about having a good direction. Let’s direct these children to a good destiny. Parents you have made the right choice to bring your children to Good Shepherd Academy. This is an instrument to help direct our children. As parents and guardians, we are appointed to lead our children where God wants them to be, not where we want them to be. This morning, I toured the school facility. All the classrooms are named after great men of God who have done and are doing great things of God in our nation. This is a good thing. The children will grow up learning about the good work of such leaders. They will be reminded about good things these leaders have done. They will be growing admiring the values of these leaders.
Therefore, when we teach our children love, unity and obedience, they will grow up in this culture. These are fruit of the Holy Spirit. When we teach them about disobedience, hatred and division, these are not the fruit of the Holy Spirit, they are the fruits of the world, and if they grow up in that manner, they will not be good citizens of the nation. Let’s grow them in the culture of the Holy Spirit as we are taught in the book of Ephesians 4.
May the Lord of peace keep you safe to continue doing good things. May the Lord keep us all and remind us to do good things, small good things to yield bigger things.
To our little graduates, you are the champions of today. You have started the journey. You have just completed one level, you are entering the next level for 8 years, then to 4 years, then to 4 years, then to 2 years and another 3-4 years of your PhD. Keep walking step by step. One step at a time.
May the Lord bless you all.