David is a grumpy retired procurement specialist and construction engineer. Does some part time consulting here. He is always very critical of any inefficiency so you can imagine how in love he is with the super Sudanese administration. Today we drive together and he tells me a story which I feel had left him quiet and thoughtful.
He was lambasting an official of the Ministry of Education for failing to open some bids and delaying thus the procurement process. The official looked at him for a long time and said:
“David, let me tell you something about education in Southern Soudan. When we started the civil war against the North, there were very few schools and in the areas we controlled, most of the country, rural areas, there were none. Our leaders, John Garang and the others, recognized that if nothing was done they were condemning the whole nation to illiteracy and obscurity.
They decided then to do something about it and they turned to their soldiers and asked which ones knew English and how to read and write. These soldiers were pulled out of their units and they were told each to take his gun and go in a village and there to set up school and teach the kids how to read an write. I was one of those soldiers, turned teacher overnight without any training. We went to the villages: Of course, we found no schools, but we found a big tree, which gave nice shade, and some rocks for the kids to sit on. And then, we needed a black board, but there were no blackboards. So I sat with the village elders to see what we can do. And we came up with the idea to stretch the skin of a black cow over a frame. And that is how we did the blackboard. But we had no chalk. So with the village elders we thought about it and we came with the idea to boil cassava root and we tried to write with it. Well it went very fast, but we could write. So, throughout the war, I served as a teacher instead of serving as a soldier, without any pay, working on a cow hide and cassava root. And if today you still find Dinka’s and Nuer and Bari, and all the other nations still speaking English and the few literate it is because of these teachers.
But David, nobody taught us in the bush about the procurement procedures…”