While patrolling to reduce tensions and protect civilians in conflict-prone Mvolo, peacekeepers from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) were moved by the plight of children in the county who struggled to learn lessons under shady trees, as teachers would do their best to educate eager young minds.
Intercommunal conflict and cattle raids were, of course, a major factor in making learning difficult. Add to that inclement weather – during the dry season, the scorching sun would lead to young students suffering from heatstroke, while lashing rains during the nine-month long wet season in Western Equatoria brought with it obvious complications.
The result: Many children would opt out and loiter aimlessly.
Seeing the situation firsthand, UNMISS peacekeepers raised the need to construct proper classrooms to the UN Peacekeeping mission’s Field Office headquartered in Yambio.
Months later, students can rejoice—under its Quick Impact Projects programme, that deals with urgent public needs through small-scale, construction-based interventions that positively impact community members, Mvolo now boasts of a classroom block with functioning toilets.
This has also helped returnees to the area reintegrate more quickly.
“So far, a total of 2,272 households have returned to Mvolo, now that the county is relatively peaceful. But they suffer from a lack of services – healthcare, education and rule of law needs to be fortified,” avers Lexson Beradi, Chairperson of the Relief and Reintegration Commission in Mvolo.
The classrooms constructed by UNMISS will go a long way, according to Mr. Beradi, in helping communities rebuild their lives.
Importantly, the mission has also handed over a police post as part of efforts to boost the rule of law and reduce criminality.
What makes this seemingly routine assistance by UNMISS special is the gratitude expressed by Mvolo county residents.
Community members came out in droves to support construction efforts, with women carrying water to fortify the school block’s foundations.
“This project might be small for UNMISS, but it means a lot to us,” says Jenty Elisa, a community member. “Our girls were getting pregnant, and boys were wasting their time. But now that there is an actual school block, they will be motivated to improve their knowledge and will, hopefully, achieve their fullest potential,” she adds. “Even us the elderly we want to join the adult school,” she says with a smile.
“We don’t just patrol and come back; whenever we interact with communities we hear about their challenges and we felt that it is the right of every child to receive a quality education,” says Moses Bagari, Child Protection Officer, UNMISS.
In addition to the secondary school block, the police post handed over by the mission is expected to improve quality of life here.
“For durable peace to prevail in Mvolo, it was essential to fortify the capacity and facilities of local law enforcement personnel,” explains Gloria Karikari, a United Nations Police Officer.
“This police post will enable our South Sudanese counterparts to improve their relationships with community members and protect and serve them to the best of their abilities,” she adds.
For UNMISS, such interventions are about encouraging recovery, boosting community resilience and enabling them to embrace a culture of peace.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).