As we drive along the semi-paved roads leading out of Juba, I wonder somewhat despondently how this one-year-old country that has been so deeply affected by conflict can prosper and grow with a literacy rate of just 27 percent. When we reach our destination—a tiny school that caters to poor children who are orphaned or with no family support, we are greeted by a loud welcome song. Children chant in a colorfully decorated hut led by a swaying young teacher whose baby sleeps peacefully on her back.
The vibe in the hut energizes me, and I begin to realize what the resilience of this nation is all about. Some of the facts in a new report on education in South Sudan start to come alive to me. This country has come a long way within a short period of time, but still has a very long way to go to catch up with the rest of Africa. Some of the children in this hut are among the 700,000 more students who were able to enroll in school between 2005 and 2009.
Imagine you are a poor child from Kibera, Kenya’s largest slum, and have a dream to become a soccer star. Some young players come close to this dream when the International School (ISK) in Nairobi hosts its annual “Nairobi Mini World Cup”.
The Mini World Cup started after ISK’s Principal of the Elementary School, Patricia Salleh Matta, introduced a Saturday sports program three years ago and opened the school not just to its own students but to many communities around the school.
My 11-year-old son Marco and I have a passion for soccer (we call it football). In order to advance the game at ISK, where he goes, I got involved in coaching and eventually became the school’s “Soccer Commissioner.” As such, my main task is to organize soccer tournaments. The highlight of our year is the annual "Nairobi Mini World Cup," which has become a fixture for many schools and soccer clubs in the city.