“My prayer is for COVID-19 to end so we can go back to school”, says Joseph Athian Wol, 13.
On a hot Monday afternoon, Joseph, calm and humble with a wide smile, sat down and shared his dreams for the future. “I want to become a lawyer someday and fight for the rights of children”, he adds. He struggled for his education but his persistence is paying off.
Joseph studied primary one at the age of nine with the help of James Manut Mathieng, the headteacher of Akuat Primary School. He said the kind headteacher paid for his school fees until his mother stopped him.
“My family does not believe in education. My mother told me there is nothing good in school and is a waste of my time. My uncle supported her saying the school was a place for lazy people”, he shares.
At 11, Joseph started doing casual work in people’s farms to support himself in school and buy his scholastic materials. He says, “I usually go to school in the morning and then work on the farm in the afternoon.” For a 5-day work, Joseph earns SSP2000 (around USD5) and tried to make ends meet for his needs.
“My mother insisted I should help in the farm being the eldest. One day when I was about to leave for school, she grabbed my books and dropped them in water. She tried to burn my uniform but stopped when she saw me crying”, Joseph says.
Joseph lost his father when he was just a baby and his mother remarried. She gave birth to four boys, all of whom she did not allow to go to school.
In one opportune time, Joseph met Agol Wol, a member of the Child Rights Club in the school who then shared his story to World Vision’s social worker together with the community-based child protection committee.
One day when I was about to leave for school, she grabbed my books and dropped them in water. She tried to burn my uniform but stopped when she saw me crying.
“They provided me with psychosocial support and counseling, then requested to meet my mother”, he shares.
World Vision has organized child rights club in the community with 117 members from nine schools in Warrap State. The members are trained on child rights issues, assist in awareness campaigns with peer groups in schools and communities.
They were empowered to identify child abuse cases and report to a community-based child protection committee.
“World Vision and the protection committee made visits to my mother until she agreed for me to study. While I still support myself for my needs, I grateful that I can go freely go to school. I stopped crying and focused on studying”, Joseph says smiling.
He said that if not for the COVID-19 pandemic, he would have been studying in primary six. “I thank World Vision. I learned of my rights as a child as well as a human being. Child rights violations are common in the community and protection is important”, Joseph adds.
Head teacher and Protection Committee Chairperson James Manut Mathieng, 31, says, “ Many people force young girls to marry old men while boys help in the farm and take care of the animals. We are grateful to World Vision for supporting us. Now, we can see some changes as the awareness campaign bears fruits.”
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Story and photos by Scovia Faida Charles, Communications Coordinator