SUDAN: Salesian Programs Offer a Second Chance to Youth Offenders by Providing Education, Path Out of Poverty
(MissionNewsire) To meet the needs of the millions of out-of-school youth, Salesian missionaries in the Sudan work to educate poor youth and provide them a path out of poverty. The Salesian-run St. Joseph Technical School in Khartoum has been training poor and internally displaced youth since 1986. Shortly after its opening, enrollment at the school reached close to 900 students. Today, enrollment is just over 650 students including 112 young offenders from local prisons working toward a second chance in life.
With a special focus on young offenders in juvenile detention centers, Salesian missionaries have been working with this population for 17 years. During the most recent academic year, Salesian Father Johnson Paulraj, rector of the community and director of reformatories, along with Mr. Fakreldeen, principal of the school, visited the juvenile detention centers at Kobar and Jeref and selected students to attend the program based on their interest and the intensity of their imprisonment.
“Gaining an education can provide new opportunities young people never even imagined were possible,” says Fr. Paulraj. “It’s more than just classroom training. Students have access to life skills that help them make better decisions and aid in later employment.”
Students at St. Joseph’s Technical School can choose from a range of programs including carpentry, electronics, auto mechanics and the operation of a printing press. Included in the programs are health services and food assistance. Career counseling and job placement services are also offered once students complete their studies.
“All youth deserve a chance at a better life,” says Fr. Paulraj. “At St. Joseph’s Technical School we help youth take responsibility for their own lives by providing them the skills to find and keep a job that will support themselves and help their communities.
Students are transported daily from the detention centers to the Salesian school. They are also provided breakfast before they attend classes. In addition to traditional classroom studies, students are also provided a chance to participate in recreation and sports programs. These activities provide these students to learn team building and problem solving skills while having the chance to release the stress and sadness of being incarcerated.
Through this program, students have an opportunity to use their time at the juvenile detention center wisely by gaining the skills and experience needed to find and retain employment once they are released. Instead of returning to a life of crime, they are able to positively contribute back to their communities.
The Sudan is one of the poorest countries in the world with 46 percent of its population living in poverty, according to UNICEF. Low incomes and food deficiencies are commonplace and ongoing violence and civil unrest exacerbate already harsh conditions. Despite these challenges, more youth are in school today than ever before with school attendance up to 73 percent compared to 68 percent in 2008. There remain, however, some 3.2 million children between the ages of six and 16, out of school, with the highest rates among nomadic populations and those living in rural areas and in the poorest households.
School enrollment and retention is affected by weak curriculum in Sudanese schools and inadequate educational materials and teacher training (according to UNICEF, more than 40 percent of teachers are untrained). Ongoing conflict and the high cost of education, particularly in rural areas where parents have to pay school fees, also affect enrollment rates.
Salesian Newsletter – Juvenile Delinquents Reformed through Don Bosco Ways
UNICEF – Poverty in Sudan