Granville-Abbas school in Sudan dedicated to slain Clark alumnus

A new school for young women was dedicated recently in southeastern Sudan and it bears the name of two individuals, one a Clark University alumnus, who were shot and killed by Sudanese gunmen in Khartoum in 2008.

The Granville-Abbas Girls’ Secondary School was dedicated on International Women’s Day, March 8, in the town of Kurmuk, Blue Nile State. It was named in honor of Clark alumnus John Granville and Abdelrahman Abbas Rahama. Granville and Abbas were working for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) on a program to bring radios to the population of South Sudan.

At Clark, Granville received a master’s degree in International Development and Social Change (IDSC) in 2004. He had previously served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon and spent years in Sudan helping to implement a peace agreement between Sudan’s north and south that ended more than two decades of civil war.

"The school by itself cannot create or embody the idea of democracy. But it can create individuals who understand the idea with their minds, who cherish it in their hearts, and who are equipped to battle for it in their actions." ~ William Fisher, director of Clark’s International Development Community & Environment (IDCE)

Clark University IDSC alumni – peers and friends of Granville –Carrie Conway and Inez Andrews collaborated through their respective agencies to have the name of their Clark colleague attached to the new school. Conway, IDSC alum Ka Vang (IDSC 04), former IDCE staffer Laura Kaub and William Fisher, director of Clark’s International Development Community & Environment (IDCE) department attended the formal opening and dedication in Kurmuk.

"This school is an important development for the Blue Nile State,” said Fisher at the ceremony. “John Dewey, in his essay on Education and Social Change, noted that the school by itself cannot create or embody the idea of democracy. But it can create individuals who understand the idea with their minds, who cherish it in their hearts, and who are equipped to battle for it in their actions."

Conway is a 2005 IDSC graduate and manager of Crisis Response and Stabilization at AECOM International Development in Washington, D.C., which constructed the school.  Andrews (IDSC/MA '99) works for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Sudan.

Also at the ceremony were community members, Sudanese officials, including Governor of Blue Nile State Malik Agar, and the U.S. State Department’s Chargé d’Affaires, Robert E. Whitehead. 

“The spirit of John Granville and Abdelrahman Abbas Rahama is here with us as we inaugurate this modern girls' school, designed as a model for the region. The school is a lasting testament to their love for and commitment to the people of Sudan,” Whitehead said.

The Granville-Abbas School’s mission is to reduce the financial, socio-cultural and institutional barriers to gender equity in education. Scholarships will provide tangible incentives for girls and women to further their education at the secondary and teacher-training levels. According to the USAID, the school complex has three sets of classrooms, a library, theater, cafeteria, dormitories, teachers' offices, and will accommodate 120 female students. Its mission is “to increase Sudan's capacity to provide quality primary and secondary education, especially for girls, who have lower literacy and lower rates of school attendance than boys.”

According to the USAID:  Establishment of a girls' secondary school in Kurmuk addresses a critical gap in Sudan's educational infrastructure. Some Kurmuk residents who fled to Ethiopia during Sudan's civil war were able to receive some schooling at refugee camps. More often, they were unable to continue their studies after returning home, where the schools were reduced to rubble. The Granville-Abbas Girls' Secondary School now provides the opportunity for more girls to continue their education.

Fisher and IDCE associate professor David Bell are exploring partnerships between the University, USAID, and the Granville-Abbas Secondary School for Girls. The department could provide teacher training and material support for the school, which might also serve as a field site for Clark IDSC graduate students, Bell said.  "Students could provide a range of services to the school and to the community—and reciprocally they could use these internships as an opportunity to gain valuable experience and conduct research and evaluations for their MA research and theses,” he added.

Andrews, who worked closely with Granville, expressed USAID's interest in support from Clark: "We are desperate for trained teachers as we are working in a country with about a 15 percent literacy rate; developing field sites for graduate students who, as suggested, could provide leadership and technical skills in different projects throughout Sudan such as on water projects, health projects, and support schools and communities with even basic skill development such as English language training. There are endless opportunities for the University's graduate students to engage in research. We are essentially building an education system and many other institutions where none ever existed.”

Before his death, Granville was collaborating with Clark University to bring Clark graduate students to southern Sudan to work with him on geographic information systems taught as part of the IDSC master’s program at Clark. Establishing a partnership between USAID and Clark to provide educational opportunities for Sudanese as well as experience and research in Sudan for graduate students would be a realization of his goal.

“By honoring John we honor all of our alumni who put themselves at risk as they work toward making this a better world,” Fisher said.  

Andre Guy Soh (IDSC/M.A. '05) interview in The Independent Weekly.

Read the Worcester Telegram & Gazette article about Mr. Granville.

Read a message from Clark's IDCE Department.

"U.S. Diplomat and Driver Are Shot Dead in Sudan" New York Times, January 2, 2008.