Concerned about years of conflict in their country, students in South Sudan’s Wau area have taken proactive steps to contribute to fostering peaceful coexistence by forming peace clubs in their schools.
“This issue of tribalism is really affecting peace in South Sudan. People with ethnic mentality focus on tribal origins and do not want to cooperate with people from other tribes. This mentality led us to lose the ability to develop our nation together,” said Bakhita Efisio, a student from John Paul II Catholic Secondary School.
He went further to suggest some practical ways to engender societal harmony.
“We as students, when we go back to school, we should form peace clubs, invite fellow students, and inform them what we have learned here. We can ask them to work together by playing with other schools, interacting, and speaking one language that unites us,” he said.
Markchut Goor, another student from Standard Secondary School, shares the same view as Efisio. He said the forum had given him an opportunity to learn ways they can work collectively to bring peace to South Sudan.
“Peace should begin from schools, communities, and then go up to the national level. When I go back to school, I will be telling my friends what I learned here today and start mobilizing them to establish a peace club,” Goor said.
Simon Paul, Partners Coordinator at the Ministry of Education in Wau, said that his office was pleased and ready to offer all the support students needed to form peace clubs, stressing the importance of such clubs.
“Peace clubs play a great role in disseminating messages of peace and promoting unity. Though you come from different ethnic groups, you are all South Sudanese,” he noted.
Organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) Civil Affairs Division, in collaboration with Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) and Ministry of Education, the forum brought together 53 students from six secondary schools in the Wau area.
Mustapha Tejan-Kella, Acting Head of UNMISS Field Office, Wau, said without peace all they were learning at school would be of no value. He urged them to be visionary young leaders, for the benefit of their communities and their country.
“You should discourage the issue of ethnicity and division. After all, we are all human beings and the only thing that lasts is service to humanity – which can only be achieved if you engage in peace-making. I hope after this lesson you will go back and form peace clubs,” he said.