South Sudanese children debate with UNICEF specialists on COVID-19

The impact of school closure was raised by youth from South Sudan

Yves Willemot
Three young people are studying
16 June 2020

Daniel (16) and Nyajima (17) from South Sudan participated in a media conference with children and young people from several other countries in eastern and southern Africa challenging UNICEF specialists with questions on COVID 19, how it impacts on children and young people and what UNICEF is doing about it. Read the blogs from Daniel and Nyajima reporting back on this exciting experience.

A young man looking into the camera
UNICEF South Sudan/de la Guardia

COVID-19 - Last year students should not drop out of school, so close to finishing

By Daniel Akuei Garang

My name is Daniel Akuei Garang. I am a student in my final year of school. I got involved in writing and reporting when UNICEF asked for teens to write poems related to peace. Ever since I have been involved in projects with UNICEF.

The current focus right now is on COVID-19. It has stopped all the things I used to do, for example going to school and practicing sports. Ever since COVID-19 started changing my life, it's harder to do things you like and appreciate.

UNICEF reached out to me about a new project.  This was about involving teens around Africa to talk about COVID-19 and the impact it has on us. I wanted to join because I wanted to understand the steps UNICEF is taking as an organization to help with the current situation. Based on the questions I had prepared I was selected to join a media conference between teens like me and UNICEF specialists.

16 June marks the Day of the African Child. A day when the children across Africa are acknowledged and celebrated. This year 2020, UNICEF conducted a video conference in which children and young people around eastern and southern Africa were chosen to talk and ask questions about the current COVID-19 situation affecting us.

A selection of children and young people representing South Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Tanzania joined for the call, among which teens and young people of ages ranging from 13-22.

Many questions were asked regarding different topics on how COVID-19 is affecting the lives of many teens around Africa. UNICEF had specialists and experts on the topics brought forth to answer the questions of the children and young people. Answers were thoroughly given by each specialist.

The main topics that were tackled were health and education, which are the main concerns in Africa at the current moment. The answers on health were mainly focused on the different projects currently taking place to help ensure the safety of people. On education the main issue we talked about was the re-opening of schools. UNICEF specialists explained they are already working on ways for students to return to school but in a safer way.

My question was also focused on education. I wanted to know how COVID-19 is impacting on the last year students – those of us who had planned to graduate this year. I said that some students might be thinking of dropping out of school, so close to finishing. The UNICEF specialists said that it was up to the different countries to decide what to do about the graduation of school children. They stressed that no child should drop out of school, because it would affect the rest of their future.

It was a great experience participating in this media conference between children and young people in eastern and southern Africa and the specialists and experts of UNICEF. I got a lot of information that helped me to better understand the different processes that UNICEF is putting in place to respond to COVID-19 and its impact on teens like us. It will help us as teens to work for a better future, not only for ourselves but also for Africa.

COVID-19 has impacted severely on our lives, but UNICEF continues as much as possible to deliver services for children and women

By Nyajima Mut Tut

I am Nyajima Mut Tut. I am 17 years old. I have been involved in UNICEF and child rights issues since 2019. I got involved through a club of poetry that I'm in. 

COVID19 has impacted my life personally in different ways. Schools were shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic which affected my studies. My dream of ending my final year of studies was a blur. This is a big change in my life.

As a young person, I want to be involved in the COVID-19 briefing because I want to share my experience as a child, and I want to be the voice for other children who are going through the same situation as I am. In other words, I want to raise my voice and to ask questions on COVID-19.

I only recently started to work with UNICEF on COVID-19. I did a videoclip with the people of UNICEF in South Sudan explaining how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on my life. The video was posted on the website of UNICEF South Sudan. I think it is important that in the COVID-19 pandemic the voices of children are heard. That is why I participated in this video.

I was glad to be invited to participate in a media conference of young people with specialists of UNICEF, because I have a lot of questions about COVID-19 in my mind. When I got the confirmation about my selection, I was excited, for myself but also for the children of South Sudan, who I would represent.

A young woman is looking at the camera
UNICEF South Sudan/de la Guardia
Nyajima Mut

I prepared well for the media conference. I worked on several questions I wanted to raise during the conference. Because there were young media reporters from many countries (Malawi, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe) I could not ask all my questions. 

The media conference happened on 12 June 2020, a few days before the Day of the African Child, which is celebrated on 16 June. We were all connected through zoom. This was new for me. I had only downloaded the application a few days before the media conference. During the conference, there were questions from different participants.

I personally wanted to know whether in these times of COVID-19 the services and programmes that were developed for children before the pandemic broke out, were continuing.

I was informed that COVID-19 didn’t interrupt all the services and programmes provided by UNICEF before. But some did. Education was disrupted and immunization was suspended. But some other vital services like the nutrition support to children are continuing. COVID-19 should not stop the services for children and women in need.

During the media conference it was also said that COVID has severely hit the poorest and that a lot of jobs were lost. Those who work informally have lost their work and income with no hope of bouncing back.

I am happy I got the opportunity to discuss with the people of UNICEF about COVID-19. I think all children should have the opportunity to make their voices heard and ask their questions. All my regards to UNICEF for this opportunity.