Graduation glimpses

A proud UNICEF staff member's accounts on graduation day

Helene Sandbu Ryeng
A boy and his graduation certificate
UNICEFSouthSudan/Ryeng
02 March 2020

 

I know how far they have come. Proud is what i'm feeling as I watch the students receive their certificates.

The students at Tindoka Vocational Centre have in common being associated with armed forces and armed groups. They are all released from the entities they used to be part of and the vocational training is part of the UNICEF supported reintegration programme.

After visiting the school multiple times, I've gotten know several of the students and their stories. I know how much they have struggled and fought to get to where they are, this is why I was so glad I could be there on their spacial day.

 

a lady hugging a girl
UNICEFSouthSudan/Ryeng
Social worker Eunice embracing 'Anna' after the certificates are handed out

 

I wasn't the only one who was proud that day. The student's families were were beaming with pride, and so were the social workers. Every child enrolled in the three-year-long reintegration programme gets a dedicated social worker for the entire period, one of the most important success factors in the programme.

They are there for the children on rainy and sunny days. They are shoulders the children can cry on, the steady hands when wading through high waters, the main cheerleaders, the sages they can turn to when stuck and loving and warm adults in the children's lives.

A moved Eunice was hugging 'Anna' who has come so far but is still hurting from the time in the Bush.

Folded hands
UNICEFSouthSudan/Ryeng
'Christian' is waiting for the graduation ceremony to start
Grades on the back of the graduation certificate
UNICEFSouthSudan/Ryeng
'Christian' graduated with distinction

 

One of the students I've come to know a bit better is 'Christian'. I was bursting with pride when I saw he graduated with distinction. The boy in front of me is so far away from the troubled boy coming out of the bush.

Children dancing
UNICEFSouthSudan/Ryeng
Children dancing at the graduation

 

Music and dancing are essential parts of any graduation ceremony. The students had made a special dance for the graduation ceremony and were performing in front of their fellow students and families.

A unicef staff member shaking one of the graduates' hand
UNICEFSouthSudan/Ryeng
Child Protection officer Anna is congratulating one of the students.

 

My colleague Anna, who is a child protection officer in Yambio and know these children very well, is congratulating one of the students. This is the third group of children associated with armed forces and armed groups graduating from Tindoka. With the programme being severely underfunded, we can't say for sure whether there will be a fourth.

This is something 'Christian' brought up in one my conversations with him. "Helene, you know there are so many children still in the bush. My friends from the time are still suffering, I don’t know how to help them. If I could I would say to them, come out and come to Tindoka.”

He knows about the funding situation, butt pleaded: “You need to find a way to help them, just like you helped me,”

Tools in a pile
UNICEFSouthSudan/Ryeng
One of the start-up kits the students receive after graduation
Tools in a wheelbarrow
UNICEFSouthSudan/Ryeng
Start-up kit for a masoner

 

After the graduation, the students receive start-up kits enabling them to start working immediately. 

Even though the children have graduated and are now walking out in the world with new skills and tools we are not letting go. Their dedicated social worker will continue to follow-up throughout the three-year period, holding their hands, cheering, listening, guiding and loving them.

Two young men carrying a set of tools
UNICEFSouthSudan/Ryeng
'Christian and a friend carrying his start-up kit after graduation

Seeing 'Christian' walk out the gate for the last time made me hopeful. Hopeful, because he has shown what a resourceful young man he is. I'm convinced he will do well and contribute to his family and community. 

The work we are doing wouldn't be possible without generous contributions from ECHO, the EU and USAID.