FAQ for Jalle School

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why does the school cost so much compared to other projects I’ve heard about?
A: Building materials and transportation are major contributing cost factors. It is true that a school can be built in a developing country for comparatively little money if stone, wood, or other suitable material is readily available. Jalle, however, is on a very remote treeless plain and has few resources suitable for building a permanent school. For example, consider aggregate (small rocks), used for making concrete. In the U.S., aggregate for concrete costs less than $100 for a dumptruck load. In Southern Sudan, the same load of aggregate costs over $1,200 delivered to our site from Juba, 10 hours away. We have designed a cost-effective building using a prefabricated light-steel skeleton (similar to a pole barn) and minimizing the use of concrete in the floor and foundation. Our construction costs are consistent with other projects in the region.

Q: I thought Africa was very poor. Why are things so expensive in Southern Sudan?
A: Since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan, is one of the fastest growing cities and economies in the world. Demand for resources, fuel, and supplies far exceeds the ability of the country’s battered infrastructure to supply them. While labor is still a relative bargain compared to the developed world, in many cases services and material goods are much more expensive due to chronic shortage of supply.

Q: Why should I help pay to build a school in Jalle? Isn’t this the government’s responsibility?
A: The infrastructure of Southern Sudan was completely destroyed during 20 years of civil war. Few if any population could recover from such devastation without outside assistance. The Southern Sudanese government, United Nations, USAID, and other large organizations have relatively vast resources, but not limitless. Large scale projects, such as power, water, sanitation, and transportation cost billions of dollars to complete – and they are far from complete. Isolated, rural communities like Jalle won’t see many resources for quite some time. Small NGOs like Rebuild South Sudan help fill this funding gap. For its part, the Jonglei state government is providing matching funds by way of paying for ongoing teacher salaries and supplies once the school is completed.

Q: Why the urgency? Can’t you wait a few years for better roads and lower material prices?
A: This is a critical time in the history of Southern Sudan. The stability of a newly independent South Sudan is largely dependent upon whether the population believes things will be better in the future. Access to education is a critical part of that equation. While one school cannot meet the demand, it can and will serve as a strong symbol of what is possible.

Q: Why are you building on a flood plain?
A: The area we are building in is situated on a very large, flat, flood plain, hundreds of square miles in area. This ecosystem supports the lush grasslands essential for grazing cattle, the livelihood of the Dinka people. Jalle itself is protected from Nile floodwaters by a dike system that was rebuilt by USAID in 2005-2006. While the population is protected from the Nile, water becomes trapped behind the dike during heavy rain events causing localized flooding. The result is standing water several inches deep over wide areas. The school itself will be elevated above the ground on a specially designed foundation.

Q: Why is it taking so long for the school build? What progress has been made to the school?
A: Our central goal as an organization is to form long term sustainable solutions for the people of South Sudan. Part of our sustainable plan is the major goal of building a an elementary school in Jalle and facilitating educator trainings. Since 2007 we have been planning, fundraising and working with Jalle community members to build the school. Although we have faced many setbacks in our original timeline, we have overcome them and plan to continue to do so until the project is completed.

In 2011, we struggled to get materials into the region due to little to no infrastructure in South Sudan. For example there are no ports in South Sudan, so building materials (also not available in South Sudan) had to shipped in through South Africa. The materials for the steel structure materials were then lost by the shipping company in South Africa. The container was found, but then three weeks later the materials were still stuck at a series of borders before getting into South Sudan.  When the materials finally were able to traverse the dirt roads and arrive in Jalle, it was only one day before the rainy season started. This meant that construction would not be able to begin for another 6 months. Because of the local geography of floodplains, we then faced the challenge of only being able to build in the dry season.

This is just one example of what it has been like for ten years of working to get this school built. Transcontinental logistics, civil war which lead to loss of lives and materials, skyrocketing inflation and a crashing economy, unreliable phone networks, a volunteer run organization and lack of funds, geography and challenging terrain all created a mountain of difficulty and setbacks to Jalle’s process of rebuilding.

Today, we have a basic structure built which is used for classes during the dry season: the foundation, the steel frame, and a roof. Considering what it has taken to get this far, we are proud that the skyline of Jalle has begun to change. The school structure can be seen from one of the main roads outside of Bor town and is a symbol of hope to all who witness it. This hope has encouraged us to finish the project. We won’t give up, because for as long as there is one person in South Sudan who could benefit from this project we will keep working on it.

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