News from Rumbek

Family get together – reinforcing the bonds of family

At the Loreto Girls Secondary School (LGSS), there is a School Family system that unites our students and helps them to support each other. It enables students from different communities, ethnic groups and socioeconomic status to feel protected and nurtured through strong family bonds.

A sense of belonging is one of the needs in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for human development and flourishing. The creation and sustenance of this sense of belonging requires friendship, trust and acceptance. It entails being part of a group or family, and having friends.

Christine Kuer, a recent Loreto graduate explains, “I learnt how to interact with people from different communities. I’m so happy because I feel that I have my country at my hands. Care and support I got from the family made me feel complete and appreciated. The family responsibilities like being a caretaker of my daughters and grand-daughters have also molded me to be who I am today. At the moment I’m taking take care of my parents and siblings at home and providing for some of their basic needs.”

The Loreto School Family system started nine years ago with a group of the pioneer students who used the names of East African mountains as their family titles. Today, there are ten thriving school familes, namely: Liria, Buma, Imatong, Linda, Nuba, Meru, Kilimanjaro, Cukudum, Lopit and Ruwenzori.

How the Family System works

In the School Family system, the Senior One students are the youngest in the family and are welcomed by Senior Two students who serve as their ‘mothers.’ The Senior Three students are ‘grandmothers’ and ‘heads of family,’ respectively. A ‘mother’ is responsible for helping her ‘daughter’ to adjust to life at Loreto, to help her to grow and develop into a ‘Loreto girl.’

If a ‘daughter’ has a problem, she presents it to her ‘mother’ and if they find no solution they approach the ‘grandmother’ and the ‘head of the family.’ Students meet weekly to spend time together and to discuss matters in their school families, supporting each other as needed.

Family Day at Loreto Rumbek

The family systems are as strong and stable as the mountains after which they were named, and each year, a celebration is held to reinforce the bonds of family.

The School Family system also serves a major role in conflict resolution among students without involving teacher and disciplinary committee.

According to Miss Nyasir, a disciplinary committee member and a matron at LGSS, “Students from different regions may have different expectations and ways of doing things and this may sometimes cause misunderstanding among them.

Families help them learn and accommodate each other. Students bring to us major issues because most of the disputes are solved within the family.”

As Rebecca Yar, a student, explains, “When Achot and her daughter had a disagreement, Apopo my grandmother talked to them and they are good now.”

Martha Nyalat from Nuba family adds,

“A member of the family can disagree or quarrel due to misunderstanding. Recently, a Senior One had a conflict with a Senior Four from a different family. The Senior Four reported to the grandmother of the girl. The grandmother helped them make peace by talking to her grand-daughter. The girl realized her mistake and apologized to the elder. This prevented hatred between families and helped strengthen the bond.”

This year, on July 14th, we held our School Family Day celebration, a joyous occasion for all. Every School Family Day, we welcome all Loreto graduates back to our school to meet new members of their respective families. The family members shared a delicious meal prepared by the Senior Three students and spent time laughing and talking together.

The graduates talked about life after school and shared their advice for tackling general life challenges. The elders also helped their younger family members to set academic goals, pledging their support as the current students strive to realize such goals.

As Marlin Michael, a Senior 4 student puts it, “The family gives me somewhere to belong to when I’m in school. We discuss life challenges and learn life skills. Hygiene and health issues are discussed. We were able to learn that we should avoid sharing clothes to avoid contacting ailments … we should also put efforts in our academics and exploit our potential. Discipline is a key area for success and we should also respect each other and treat one another with love and kindness. Respect elders in the family and keep on the spirit of family burning.”

Another interesting aspect about the Loreto School Families is their effort to protect girls from early / forced marriages and dropping out of school. In South Sudan, 52% of girls are married before their 18th birthday; 17% before they turn 15 years old. Formal education is fundamental to help girls understand their worth, and boarding schools like Loreto provide a safe haven for their development.

In the School Families, girls encourage one another to work hard and focus mainly on learning and building themselves up, citing examples from their elders.

As the School Family units continue to grow, we hope that students will apply the skills learnt in their future endeavours, and also at home.

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