It’s 8 a.m. Monday morning at Loreto Girls Secondary School, 10 kilometers north of Rumbek, the violence prone capital of Lakes state in South Sudan. The girls line up in four straight rows for their weekly assembly.
Two students march toward the flagpole and unfurl the South Sudan horizontal tricolor flag of black, red and green. They begin to sing the national anthem in unison. Some put their hands over their hearts.
Loreto student Mary Jukudu holds an audio recorder in one hand with a pair of headphones covering her ears. She has a look of determination as she presses the record button.
The national anthem ends. Jukudu approaches Deputy Principal Nelson Kiarie.
“I’m here to ask you a few questions. My first question is about the journalism club at Loreto. How do you feel about it?”
Kiarie looks surprised. This interview is the result of a weekend of oral storytelling and radio journalism training conducted by Internews.
“I think it’s a very good idea that young people like you have an opportunity to express themselves,” Kiarie said. “This is where we get leaders. You learn how to communicate with the public.”
Jukudu thanked Kairie for the interview and moved along to Samuel Gitau, known as Loreto’s disciplinarian.
“Why do all students fear you?” she asked playfully. The assembly of students and teachers laughed and applauded her audacity.
Last year, Loreto student Aruai Kedit founded the journalism club. In 12 months, it has grown to include more than 50 students and is now one of the school’s largest clubs.
Members write stories about topics ranging from early childhood marriage to the need for girl child education to inter-communal violence among Dinka clans in Rumbek. It will all soon be published in the school’s forthcoming magazine, aptly titled Rising Stars.
“It makes me happy to see other girls want to be journalists. I trained them how to edit their stories,” Kedit said.
Candacia Greeman is a teacher at Loreto Girls Secondary School. She supports the journalism club and wants to see these girls become confident young women.
“I believe that journalism allows youth, especially girls, to give voice to issues that concern them. It also builds their self-confidence and their ability to eloquently present an idea or story,” she said.
Greeman invited Internews multimedia journalism trainer Adam Bemma to work with the club after a few members expressed their interest in learning practical skills in radio journalism.
She hopes this three-day Internews training will help students learn how to eventually produce a radio science program specific to life in South Sudan, featuring Loreto’s primary school science club.
“The students have reported that they now understand how to conduct an interview. They are also aware of the ethics involved in journalism and the types of personal qualities they would need to develop to be effective journalists,” Greeman said.
Plans for the Loreto journalism club, or “J-club,” to begin producing multimedia content, from audio to photos to online stories, began with this training. Members feel confident in their ability to tell stories and to share them digitally across multiple platforms.
“I’m very happy,” Kedit said. “I’ve learned many things. I hope he will come back again and teach us more.”
Internews’ work in South Sudan is funded by the US Agency for International Development.