South Sudan: I Want to Be a Teacher

20 June 2019

Basamat Osman Atom, from the Blue Nile region of Sudan, is training to be a teacher with the support of JRS in Maban, South Sudan. (Jesuit Refugee Service)

Basamat Osman Atom was born just a few kilometers away from Maban, in a small market center known as Jam in Blue Nile State, Sudan. Her story is one of resilience and deep determination.

An Education on the Run

I was born in 1996 to Sarah and Osman Atom, and I am the oldest in a family of six girls and one boy. Before I joined the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Teacher Training program in Maban, I was an untrained volunteer teacher at a school in the local refugee camps. I am now in my second semester, and I expect to complete my certificate for the primary education course in December 2019.

I ran away from my hometown because of the unending war in Blue Nile between the government and the opposition forces, or rebels. After war broke out in 2011, my family and I ran to Maban to find shelter from the violence. I was in the second year of secondary school in Sudan when I was forced to stop my schooling. Unfortunately, I was unable to continue my studies in Maban as there was a different curriculum, and my mother was jobless, and therefore didn’t have the income to support me. After staying in the camp for three years, my mother found work as a cleaner in a private construction company. She could then send me to the neighboring country of Uganda to continue with my studies.

After only two years in Kampala, I was again forced to leave school and come back to the refugee camp because the company my mother worked for had closed down and she could no longer support me.

Life as a Teacher in Training

During school days, I wake up at 6:30 am. After breakfast, I walk  to the nearby market where some students and I from the same camp travel to training. JRS currently offers a ‘day-school’ model of training, where JRS takes us to the center  in the morning and home in the evening. JRS hopes to expand this service to a ‘residential’ model, which will give us more time to interact with the tutors. At the JRS Teacher Training Center, I received the best marks of 42 trainees on the first semester exams. Once I finish my training, I hope to become a better teacher and contribute to improving the quality of education for my people.

When I’m not in school, I like to stay home, have tea and chat with my mum and sisters. There is not much to do in Maban, so we talk and joke among ourselves. I sometimes give informal remedial classes to my siblings who are in primary school. I love to cook, but conditions in the camp mean that we have very few options to eat. In the morning I have tea and zalabia (Arabic for doughnuts), and during lunch we have Kisra (local food) or posho with lentils or beans. At times we have meat… if we can afford it.



I would like for there to be more opportunities for girls to develop and grow freely while chasing our dreams. I want to see the community’s living conditions improve, so that people are happier.

JRS currently offers two models of teacher training to 512 teachers in both the refugee and host communities of Maban, South Sudan. One model is meant for teachers in active service and takes four years to complete, while the other (known as pre-service) takes two years. In addition to teacher training, JRS South Sudan provides a range of services, including English language and computer courses, counselling, psychosocial support, pastoral program, and child care to children living with disabilities. JRS also gives direct support to the host community through primary schools and early childhood and development centers.

This story is part of JRS/USA’s World Refugee Day Campaign – With My Own Two Hands to celebrate the strength, resilience, and talent of refugees and what they can do and contribute their own two hands. We’ll be sharing stories of refugees who have rebuilt their lives and contributed to their new homes. We’ll also be offering you opportunities to learn more how you can use your own two hands to help refugees not just to survive but thrive. If you’re in Washington, DC, join us for World Refugee Day!

This article was originally published by the Irish Jesuit Missions.