Greenbelt Academy (a subsidiary of Education Bridge), located in Bor, South Sudan, is on a mission to inspire and educate a generation of peacebuilders and changemakers. They do this through leadership and conflict transformation curriculum for 320 students, including 80 female students, from grades 9-12. In a country that has endured over 20 years of civil war, Greenbelt has created a diverse school community that allows for interaction among students of different ethnic groups that have historically been in conflict with one another.
Majak Anyieth, Founder and CEO of Education Bridge and Executive Director of Greenbelt Academy, was the first undergraduate student from South Sudan at the University of Notre Dame University. In 2017, Education Bridge opened its first school, Greenbelt Academy, in South Sudan. Majak approached Telecom4Good to see how we could support the students and staff at Greenbelt Academy.
How We Partnered
Through the School and Health Center Technology Program, Telecom4Good donated and installed a Cisco Meraki security appliance/firewall and wireless access point and a year’s worth of internet connection to Greenbelt’s administration. This program is funded with proceeds from our partner-sponsored services.
The initial value of this new connectivity has been their team’s ability to connect with international donors and academy advisors. “Having internet connection really has changed the trajectory of everything we’re doing. It’s been the greatest avenue to open the chain of communication to the US,” explains Jenny Ng, Director of Development at Education Bridge.
For example, Greenbelt had a project to build a girls’ bathroom and distribute menstrual pads at school, funded by the Rotary Club of Minneapolis. The Rotary Club has strict timelines for reports, but it was difficult to meet those deadlines because of internet difficulties. Similarly, the academy has a “Sponsor a Student” program, where mostly US-based donors pay $500 per year to support a student’s schooling for that year. The sponsors were asking for regular communication with the students they sponsor, but the Greenbelt team has been unable to facilitate that exchange without reliable internet. Now reporting back to donors will be timely and effortless.
Receiving free wi-fi from Telecom4Good also saves Majak time and internal resources. “Before, internet cafes were our only option, so internet was hard to access and it was even harder to find a connection with reliable strength. We couldn’t send photos at all, or it would take large amounts of time. Having internet at the school saves me the trouble of going to internet cafes and paying by usage,” recounts Majak.
Having internet will also prevent missed opportunities for receiving resources. Since T4G covered the monthly cost of their internet usage, Greenbelt is able to dedicate those funds to other needs at the school. They had considered other internet solutions in the past, but they were too expensive. “Those costs are allocated to the most pressing needs, such as building classrooms, paying teachers, and buying students food.”
Moving Forward With Technology
With an eye to the future, Greenbelt’s leaders know the value of connecting students and teachers to technology and all that the Internet has to offer. “In providing the best education possible, internet is an important tool to access the outside world and online resources, and to expose teachers and students to international opportunities. Most have never left the country – connecting them to partners online will lead to life-changing opportunities, such as visiting an annual peace summit at Notre Dame.”
Besides communicating with their US administrative and leadership team, the primary goal for 2019 is to open up the path to partnerships, which will require internet to build those connections. Some objective they’d like to accomplish include:
- Taking students and teachers to partner organizations and conferences in South Africa and Rwanda.
- Launching a Greenbelt teaching fellowship, which would invite education partners to come to Bor to guest speak.
- Since they currently serve high schoolers, students will need internet access to apply for university, especially if they want to go beyond the borders of South Sudan.
- Providing internal capacity building and online training for learning best practices and new techniques for teachers and the administration.
The Greenbelt team is doing everything in their power to protect students and their access to quality education. For example, they recently finished the construction of a girls’ dorm, with plans to build one for the boys, so students can live on campus. This will increase diversity, lower drop-out rates, and mitigate safety concerns for students traveling to the school. Access to internet is a key component to the Academy’s future success and will unlock opportunities they haven’t even dreamt of yet.
Learn more about Greenbelt Academy and the Education Bridge model at education-bridge.org.
Learn more about our School and Health Center Technology Program.
Written by Ashlee Sang