As Hunger Stalks South Sudan's Children, Their Education Suffers Too

February 24, 2017

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South Sudan’s long, brutal civil war has taken a huge toll on the children in that country, recently triggering a famine that threatens a million people, including at least 270,000 children who are severely malnourished.
 

The protracted conflict in South Sudan has harmed children in many other ways, too.  For example, it has driven 3.4 million people from their homes and forced more than 1.8 million children out of school. With their classrooms destroyed and their teachers having fled violence themselves, the window of opportunity for education is closing for tens of thousands of children.  Their futures, as well as their lives, are at risk.

 

But, despite the crisis their country faces, many children in South Sudan still cling tightly to a simple dream: “I want to go to school.” UNICEF South Sudan is doing everything it can to make that possible.

 

In response, UNICEF launched its Education in Emergency program. Located near camps for the displaced, UNICEF-supported schools provide safe spaces and educational opportunities for the children who attend. But enough equipment and supplies aren‘t always available.
 

At seven in the morning, outside one such school, hundreds of children arrive eagerly balancing objects on their heads. Some carry empty cans of food aid, others broken buckets and small stoves.
 

These items aren‘t part of a science project. Instead, the kids will use them as chairs in classrooms that consist of little more than thatched walls, dirt floors and a blackboard.

 

 

Ten-year-old Nyayang carries an old, broken UNICEF water bucket to school because there‘s nothing to sit on during class. “When I grow up I want to be a teacher to help teach my own people!“ she says.

 

 

“My mom cooks for us on this stove and I use it as a chair in school,” says Nyaboth, 6, a second-year primary school student. “When I come back home after classes, she takes it away again to cook dinner for us.”

 

 

“I was very frightened by the war. I saw so many people wounded and men shooting guns ... I feel safe here ... and want to keep coming to school,“ says Nyapuor, 9, as she sits on a battered USAID food can. 

 

 

Dang Madang, a teacher at the UNICEF-supported Hope Primary School explained, “These children have seen and witnessed things no adult, let alone a child, should ever have witnessed. Teaching them science, math and English is the best thing we can do ... to ensure their safe futures.”

 

 

Please support UNICEF's fight against famine — and for education — in South Sudan.

 

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All photos courtesy of UNICEF South Sudan and photographer Sebastian Rich.