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South Sudan, 4 March 2016: Literacy schools light up cattle camp communities

© UNICEF/2016/Simmonds

 
4 March 2016 – For more than two years, South Sudan has been overwhelmed by civil war.

Tens of thousands of South Sudanese have been killed, and millions – yes, millions – have lost their homes, and are now displaced. Famine prowls, violence continues, and children suffer ceaselessly.

But the dreams forged at Independence have not entirely faded.

Although South Sudan has grim data for almost everything – consider this, 60 percent of South Sudanese are illiterate – the numbers don’t tell the full story.

In rural and remote areas – where the data is even darker – literacy schools are lighting up the bush.

© UNICEF/2016/Hubbard

 
Traditionally, people living in South Sudan's cattle camps have no access to education. The majority of the boys spend their entire life herding cattle and protecting them from being raided by other tribes; the girls spend their lives supporting the boys and men.

But this is starting to change.

Working with volunteer teachers (yes, they do it for free!), UNICEF and implementing partner ACROSS have opened literacy schools. Set up under the shade of Acacia senegalis trees, first-time students sit for two hours each morning in the remote region of northern South Sudan, known as Tonj East. Classes are open for both sexes of all ages. Some old men learnt to read, within months, for the first time.

Accompanying the literacy lessons are peace messages aired from a MP3 player.

Since protecting one's cattle can be a violent business, the peace messages are welcomed just as much as the reading lessons.
 

 

These pictures are portraits of members of the cattle camp community.

© UNICEF/2016/Simmonds

Cattle are the sum total of a family's wealth. One family member has the responsibility of safe-guarding each cow the family owns. While some families may only own one cow, the price of a bride can range from 30 cows to 300 cows. In some cases the only way to get the cows is to steal them. This can lead to violent clashes.

Therefore, cows are very highly treasured and much loved by their herders/ protectors, who sing to them and use precious resources to decorate them. No-one moves at any time without some means to protect their cows, and themselves, from cattle raiders.

© UNICEF/2016/Simmonds
© UNICEF/2016/Simmonds
© UNICEF/2016/Simmonds

 

 
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