The sound of the school bell lights the day and the future of children
Schools reopen at the Malakal Protection of Civilians PoC site
The long-awaited day finally came when Ochana William Ujwok, a 4-year-old student in Salaam Two Primary School at the Malakal Protection of Civilians (PoC) site, was able to return to class, play with her classmates, and wait for their favorite reading and numeracy teacher to arrive.
That morning's lesson was on counting from 1 to 15 and recognizing letters of the English alphabet and the familiar items and animals that they represent, which Ochana repeated with the rest of the class with a lot of excitement and passion.
Since September 2022, their school had been turned into a shelter for people displaced by renewed conflict in Upper Nile State. As a result, Ochana and the other students were unable to attend classes in the camp.
More than 13,000 students in the POC camp attending community schools were impacted.
Additionally, with over 10,000 additional IDPs relocated into the PoC, the number of children in need of education increased significantly.
Paving the way for classes to resume, UNICEF worked with all stakeholders, including the management of the Malakal Protection of Civilians (PoC) site, and UNMISS Protection Transition and Reintegration Section, to identify additional spaces and set up more shelters to relocate the Internally displaced people out of the schools.
On May 22, 2023, schools successfully reopened. However this was short-lived as intercommunal violent clashes broke out in the Protection of Civilians (PoC) site. The clashes resulted in the closing of the school again and displacement of children and families to surrounding areas.
In collaboration with the Government, UNMISS, UNICEF, education partners and various stakeholders, through a back to learning initiative and dialogue with the community contributed to reduce tensions to allow children to get back to classes.
All the schools are now reopened with a significant improved enrollment. This will provide thousands of children the opportunities and learning they need for better futures.
Upon the reopening, Carlos Michael who has taught maths and English for the past two years at Salaam Two Primary School said: “Life in the PoC is quite challenging, but there is also an opportunity to excel in school, just like other children out there, through the provision of education and other services”
Apart from being a space for learning, the school provides a safe space, I am happy that children are back to school because it’s a security for them to be learning here.
All children at the school find encouragement in Carlos' presence as well as other teachers, many who are volunteers, as leaders and role models amidst their challenging circumstances growing up in a PoC camp.
In the Malakal PoC site, UNICEF works with partners to support teachers by providing teaching and learning materials for all children. Textbooks are distributed to all schools and teachers are provided continuous professional development opportunities.
Aton Adwok, 14 years old, who is in Primary 4, dreams of becoming a pilot. Returning to school will allow her to pursue that dream.
Being able to read and write is key for the future. I encourage young children who are at the market and on the street to come back to school.
The road to a promising future for children in South Sudan is a long one; the situation in Upper Nile is still precarious, and children in many areas have missed months of school due to inter-communal conflict and flood-related displacement that have occurred repeatedly over the past four years. However, with the schools reopening and the community's involvement, things are beginning to improve.
UNICEF is working with donor partners such as the Global Partnership for Education, The African Development Bank, The European Union, The Kingdom of Norway and the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund, to support education in South Sudan providing children and teachers with tools for them to learn and grow and contribute to the development of South Sudan.