“Today everything needs education. Now people understand the importance of education. I will continue with education until I become old or blind.”
At 35 years old, midwife Riek Machiek believes it is not too late for her to learn how to read and write in English.
She enrolled on the Save the Children-supported Alternative Learning Programme (ALP) in October last year. Now every evening, she and her classmates in Rumbek attend classes under a tree.
Although she is still in level one, she is determined to reach great heights.
“I am married to an educated man so I want to study and be at the same level with my husband,” she explains.
Missing out on an education
Machiek never went to school before, but she can now afford a smile after learning how to read and write a few sentences in English.
“I have come to acquire knowledge so that I can read and write,” she says.
“I didn’t go to school at all in my life, so I started in level one. In the village where I grew up in there were no schools. When I was young I didn’t know anything about education.”
The majority of women in Rumbek didn’t go to school because of traditional beliefs. As a result parents prefer to keep girls at home, training them to become mothers in the future.
Machiek is one of the few lucky women; she learnt to be a midwife at her husband’s clinic when they lived in Khartoum. But now she must learn how to read and write to enable her to work properly.
“When you don’t go to school and learn, it is difficult for you to work in the hospital because you cannot fill the records of your work, and reading instructions on the medicine is difficult,” she explains.
Never too old to learn
“Some women laugh at me; they ask me why am I going to school when I am old, instead of leaving the chance to my young people. I tell them that education has no age limit,” Machiek says.
Machiek has to come to terms with a lot of challenges as she continues with her studies.
“Our biggest problem as women is that we have a lot of things to do at home, like cooking and taking care of children. This makes it difficult for mothers to come to school. Some women fear to come to class because they are already old, while other husbands don’t allow their wives to attend classes because they feel it is waste of time.”
Save the Children is supporting ALP to help men and women in Rumbek to get an education, no matter how old they are.
And Machiek isn’t stopping at school: she is determined that this is just the start. “Now I want to study until university and become a certified nurse,” she smiles.