“I am 55 years old and I am attending school with my children and my grandchildren. They even help me study and understand what we are learning.”
These are the words of Rita Chol, one of the candidates from the United Nations Protection of Civilians (POC) site in Malakal, who completed the South Sudan Primary Level Education National Examinations in the Upper Nile region.
For the first time, the UN Mission in South Sudan’s Upper Nile office together with humanitarian partners facilitated the schooling leaving examinations in Religious Education, English, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies.
Peacekeepers from the Rwandese Battalion transported the students to ensure their safety throughout the examination period.
“The exam was good. I am very grateful to UNMISS for giving us transport to take us from the POC to town and back to enable us to sit our exams,” said Dominic Johnson.
The acting UNMISS Head of Field Office, Anthony Agyenta, said that it was a privilege for UNMISS and the Rwandese contingent to provide this service which adds towards building peace and protecting civilians in this part of the country.
“This is an essential part of our support for peaceful transformation in the Upper Nile region. We want to use opportunities such as this to advocate for a new beginning for the children of South Sudan. Their enthusiasm is a strong message to the leaders, to South Sudan and to the world that they have lost a lot and are keen to rebuild a new future that is bright and promising,” said Anthony Agyenta.
Of the 117 students sitting the exam, 60 are female.
For the last eight years, the students have been studying at two primary schools at the UN Protection site.
“The exam was 50-50,” said Rita Chol. “But even if I don’t pass this time, I will still sit again next year until I succeed. Learning never stops.”
“I am appealing to those my age to go back to school to remind themselves of things we learnt and to keep busy,” she added.
Supporting students to sit examinations and continue with their education is important so they get the opportunity to reach their full potential. It also contributes to the UN Mission’s role in helping internally displaced people feel confident and safe enough to return to their homes and have the skills they need to support themselves in the long-term.
“UNMISS and our humanitarian partners are looking forward to the reopening of even more schools in this state, for teachers to return to teaching, for children from all over to return to learning, and for all of us to work together to build the future for South Sudan that everyone is hoping for,” said Mr. Agyenta.
“The fact that we have both the young and the old coming together to learn and sit the examinations is a sign of rejuvenated hope in this society.”