Bor — The Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) announced on Thursday at a ceremony in Jonglei state that it will sponsor 40 South Sudanese students through secondary school in 2013.
The chairperson of the KCB board, Jashinto Genye, said the bank will pay for two girls and two boys from each of South Sudan's 10 states, who receive the best results in their primary school exams, to complete their secondary school education.
"We are launching the sponsorships program here in Malek Academy for the whole [of] South Sudan", said Genye, while addressing the gathering at the school in Bor.
He said that the bank realised that "if we are to move this country forward, we should get involved in education".
"It was through education that made our leaders start [the] war of liberation, and it will be through education that poverty can be reduced in this country", Genye said.
Around two million people died in the two-decades-long civil war that led to South Sudan's independence in 2011. KCB say they are also offering sponsorships to orphaned students who do not have family to pay for their school fees.
The conflict and lack of investment in the region has left South Sudan as the least literate country in the world, with less than 30% of people able to read and write.
The principal of Malek Academy, Garang Aleu, said that four students - two boys and two girls - in his school were among the beneficiaries of KCB sponsorship this year.
"It was last year that KCB sponsored four students, two girls and two boys", said the principal. "One girl was married and she is not here with us".
Malek Academy, just like other schools in South Sudan, faces the ongoing issue of girls not completing their education due to early marriages.
In 2010, Majak Agoot, who is currently South Sudan's deputy minister of defence, initiated the building of the school at Malek village, about 22kms from Bor town, using resources he mobilised from donors.
The school was built in the grounds of a former Christian missionary school, which was established by Archibald Shaw in 1905.
Sponsored by parents, relatives and external sponsorships, Malek Academy is attended by 23 girls and 60 boys.
Aleu described the KCB sponsorship as a transparent and fair chance for all South Sudanese students to further their education based on academic performance in their primary leaving examinations.
"KCB sponsorships [are awarded] on the merit of good performances", he noted, adding that this would "help students to compete among themselves".
Dalbit Petroleum Company, an oil company registered in Tanzania, is said to be one of the funding partners of the school, which receives students from all of South Sudan's 10 states.
Governor encourages students
The governor of Jonglei State, Kuol Manyang, told students at the opening ceremony to make best use of the opportunity KCB has offered them.
Principal of Malek Academy Garang Aleu (L), deputy governor Hussein Maar Nyuot (C) and governor Kuol Manyang (R) at Malek Academy in Bor, 14 February 2013 (ST)
"Education is a key to [a] brighter future. It allows you to locate yourself in this world," he advised.
The governor also recognised the efforts of KCB to improve girls' education in South Sudan by sponsoring them through their studies.
"This is the best opportunity for you to use to open your ways to the universities. If you sleep in class [and] you don't do well, the sponsorship should be withdrawn from you and given to another active student. It is not your right but a privilege", the governor warned the students.
The launch was also attended by Jonglei's deputy governor, Hussein Maar Nyuot, and the ministers of law enforcement, parliamentary affairs and cabinet affairs and local government.
KCB's South Sudanese managing director, John Kimanthi, deputy managing director Rebecca Likami and KCB Bor branch managing director Sam Ng'ang'a were also in attendance at the ceremony.
Established in Juba in 2006, KCB now has branches in most of South Sudan's state capitals. The branch in Bor was opened in 2010.
Apart from sponsoring students in Jonglei, KCB says it offers "important services" to the people of Jonglei, including paying salaries to civil servants, providing unconditional loans to citizens and employing young graduates at its branches.
Recently, the South Sudanese government announced the collection of tax revenues in the country will be conducted through KCB.