Current Weather
The Spy FM

South Sudanese Children Find Hope In Education

Filed by KOSU News in World News.
May 20, 2012

The teachers’ staff-room is a charming thatched building adjacent to the classrooms overlooking the dusty recreation and assembly ground at Good Hope Basic Primary School in Bentiu, the capital of oil-rich Unity State in South Sudan.

Bentiu is near the disputed border with next-door Sudan, and within striking distance of Sudanese fighter jets and warplanes.

In recent weeks, there have been aerial bombardments targeting newly-independent South Sudan that both the White House and the United Nations have condemned. A U.N. Security Council resolution has told the two Sudans to stop fighting, sit down and negotiate a settlement to their outstanding disputes over oil and borders.

Students like Dalat Stephen Kuong, 17, worry that fear of more air strikes by Sudan’s army is keeping South Sudanese children away from classes at Good Hope.

“Right now, the northern Arabs are still bombarding us, because they are still feeling bad things,” Stephen Kuong says. “In school, we don’t have any children. Maybe in class you can find 50 pupils.” She says there used to be many more at her school.

Rebuilding Education After War

Long years of civil war, exile and life as refugees have disrupted the education system in South Sudan. They are still catching up nearly a year after secession from, and renewed conflict with, neighboring Sudan.

None of that, however, stops South Sudan’s students having passionate opinions about their new homeland, their hopes and especially their neighbors in the North.

“Are they going to give us back our land?” Stephen Kuong says of the Sudanese, referring to quarrels about territory, boundary demarcation and oil revenues.

“Maybe if they say they are going to give us back our land, maybe the children will come back. I want everybody to come back to South Sudan,” she muses. “If they leave us in peace, maybe those people who traveled will come back.”

You might expect to find rather young students at a primary school in Bentiu, but among the little ones at Good Hope are a number in their late teens, like Stephen Kuong and 19 year-old Dhoal Thuol Khan.

“They are always attacking us, bombing our children,” Thuol Khan says. “And even now, there are some other schools that are not open because of this war. People are running to other countries like Kenya, Uganda.”

Many students had their schooling interrupted by war, which they say is bad news for the development of freshly-minted South Sudan, the world’s and Africa’s newest nation. They blame Sudan, across the border, for the continuing troubles between the two neighbors and for the renewed conflict, a charge the North rejects.

The classroom is full of children of all ages, some listening attentively, others chattering and whispering as kids do. But the group sharing its views on what independence and citizenship mean is totally focused.

“To me, to be South Sudanese, I need to be free in my land. No one can attack me in my land. No one can dominate me,” says Thuol Khan. “We don’t need to fight, but we need our rights.”

Thuol Khan intensity is matched by Stephen Kuong’s. She chips in again about the two Sudans, adding: “They divide these two lands, north and south (the independence of South Sudan on July 9, 2011). Today they divide us, but we are still in war.”

Proud To Be Sudanese

Changing gears from what separates the two nations, 14-year-old James Ran Biel says he is proud to be a citizen of South Sudan. “Yes, of course,” he says.

Veronica Nyeriek echoes the sentiment. “In my land, I want to be a good citizen,” says the 15-year-old. “And I want to be a leader. I want to be free in my own land. I want peace, but if they refuse to make peace … then we are ready to fight for our land.”

Nyeriek wants to be a pilot, Ran Biel a surgeon and Thuol Khan an engineer in order to build schools and hospitals to help their people in South Sudan, they say.

Thuol Khan concludes that education is the key to progress and peace in South Sudan.

“Education means you can feel free,” he says. “No one can dominate you. You can get whatever you need when you are educated.”

Like Nyeriek, he says he is hopeful for the future of South Sudan and that their country will not return to war with Sudan.

“I need my people to be in peace and I need this young nation of mine to be like other countries in the world,” he says. “I don’t need my people to die. I need them to be in peace.” [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

1PM to 2PM Seasonal Shows

Seasonal Shows

Listen Live Now!

2PM to 3PM The Dinner Party

The Dinner Party

Think NPR meets Vanity Fair. In each episode, hosts Rico Gagliano & Brendan Francis Newnam talk with some of the world's most interesting celebrities, and along the way equip you with bad jokes, fresh drink recipes, hot food finds, odd news stories... and etiquette tips from the likes of Henry Rollins and Dick Cavett. It's all you need to get an edge in your weekend conversations. Past guests include Michelle Williams, Judd Apatow, Kid Cudi and Sir Richard Branson. Wallpaper magazine calls The Dinner Party one of the Top 40 Reasons To Live In The USA.

View the program guide!

3PM to 4PM The Splendid Table

The Splendid Table

Hosted by award-winning Lynne Rossetto Kasper, The Splendid Table is a culinary, culture and lifestyle program that celebrates food and its ability to touch the lives and feed the souls of everyone.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center