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Pope greeted by crowds of women in South Sudan as he backs girls' schools

Crowds greet Pope Francis in South Sudan   -  
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South Sudan

Pope Francis continued his tour of South Sudan with a visit to St. Teresa’s Cathedral in Juba on Saturday where he met hundreds of women holding signs for hope and peace.

Among the crowds was Sister Orla Treacy who runs the Loreto Mission, a secondary school for girls in Rumbek, where she aims to increase the number of girls being educated.

According to UNICEF, roughly 75 percent of girls in South Sudan do not go to school.

Sister Orla Treacy said: “Even today when you look at the statistics for girls 52 percent of 18 year-old girls are getting married, about 10 percent of 15 year-old girls are getting married. 

"So, getting a girl into school was impossible, it has become possible and today you will meet some of the girls who have really achieved and broken through. It is changing, but it is still a big push for girls.

"A 22 year-old girl going to university is like a taboo for many of the society, she should be getting married, she should be getting a dowry, she should be contributing to the family in that way, so it is still a challenge for young women, but it is changing and the young women are now coming with a vision for what they also want for their country as well.”

About 70 percent of the overall population of South Sudan is illiterate and 2.8 million children are out of school, according to the United Nations, the majority of them are girls.

Former student of Loreto School, Mary Alual, is now at nurse and was grateful for the chance to have received an education. 

“It was a great moment to be in the school because it was my first time to come to a big school and it was a girls school," explained Mary. "So at first it was hard because my parents did not want me to study, but through Loreto I was helped and I was able to study through.”

The Pope is on a six-day trip in Africa,. He spent the first three days in the Democratic Republic of the Congo before arriving in South Sudan on Friday.

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