Agany Malek, a resident in the Awiel Jedid area of Wau and parent of a local primary school pupil, couldn’t hold back his excitement at seeing a pile of new textbooks, teaching materials and extra-curriculum items stacked up on a classroom table.
The supplies were donated to the community by Bangladeshi peacekeepers from the United Nations Missions in South Sudan (UNMISS) as part of efforts to revitalize education and create an environment conducive to the return of the internally displaced.
Parents living here lost everything when the neighborhood was looted and destroyed during the 2016 conflict, and they can’t afford to purchase textbooks for their children,” said Malek, who was a part of a tightly-packed audience of parents, pupils and other guests that had assembled in the town’s primary school to witness the unveiling of the new supplies.
Last year, Wau’s ministry of education as well as non-governmental organizations donated several textbooks, but that barely scratched the surface of what was needed. As a result, UNMISS Bangladeshi peacekeepers were prompted to print hundreds of thousands of textbooks to benefit ten schools in the Wau area, with Awiel Jedid primary school being one of them.
”I felt very bad for the pupils suffering because of internal disputes,” said Colonel Majharul Hague, commander of the Bangladeshi battalion based in the area.
Once a flourishing area, Awiel Jedid is now virtually a ghost town, with nearly all of its buildings destroyed or abandoned. Most people reside in a UN protection of civilian site or in collective centres scattered across Wau.
Prior to the conflict, the town’s primary school catered to more than 1,000 students. Today, all that stands of it is rubble left over from the fighting and its aftermath.
”The building is in very bad shape,” said Lodvoico Joseph Ulak, the school’s headmaster. ”Since its re-opening, looters have raided supplies and vandalised furniture. Pupils have also stolen some of the books,” he continued.
Despite this, Ulak is optimistic that one day the school will be re-constructed to accommodate even more pupils, and that it will be transformed into a safe haven for internally displaced persons returning to the community from the UNMISS protection sites and collective centres.
It is wise to support education, as it is the backbone of development, said Mario Nybango John, Wau minister of education. We need more partners in peace to help us fill in the gaps that the state government can’t,” he added.
John urged the local administration to take good care of the textbooks for future use.
Over the past two years, the peacekeepers have spearheaded many humanitarian projects. Earlier this month they also ran a no-cost medical camp for the residents of Bazia Jedid in Wau.
Source: UN Mission in South Sudan