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South Sudan, 21 September 2015: International Day of Peace: DJ and model Mari Malek visits school

By Nicola Simmonds

© UNICEF/SouthSudan/2015
Mari Malek is visiting a school in South Sudan for PBEA

21 September 2015, South Sudan – Two young girls sit under a mango tree off the dusty main street of Wau, South Sudan. They were both born here in Wau, in the north west of the country, a semi-arid landscape dedicated agriculture and cattle grazing. They chat and giggle easily, though this is where most of the similarities end.

Mari Malek (24) is a refugee from South Sudan. She is also one of the hottest models and DJs in New York City, living in a world far far removed from her childhood. Her life was turned around by the kindness of strangers and the strength of family, but most importantly, by getting a good education after her mother managed to escape the endless cycle of violence and get Mari and two of her sisters to the USA.

Today, on the International Day of Peace, Mari is visiting a primary school in Wau to witness for herself the success of one of UNICEF’s peacebuilding initiatives. It is here, after years of hard work with the Government and other partners, a new curriculum has been written incorporating life skills and conflict-sensitive education across all subjects and at all levels of primary and secondary schooling.

“I think a major cause of all this violence happening in my country is a lack of education,” says Mari. “Most of the country is illiterate. This new curriculum is relevant to South Sudan, and the teachers will be trained to give examples that are relevant to a learner’s life, in this case, a child living in Wau.

“Part of the magic,” adds Mari, “is the simplicity. The ambitions of peacebuilding are grand, but the path is clear: life skills such as manners, tolerance, how to share and play together, and learning how to solve issues and conflicts as a group. For instance, more than 60 percent of this country are women, who are not allowed to speak or have any sort of a voice. Teaching them life skills can change that.”

Mari smiles as she watches a group of children of mixed tribes create a drama together in the after-school co-curricula Peace Club. Children improvise as they solve a mock argument. Outside a group of boys and girls play football together. Peacebuilding at work.



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