UNMISS engineers work together with their trainees to rebuild a community school in Malakal

Six months after its conclusion, a training provided by some of the UN peacekeeping mission’s engineering troops in Malakal is already paying substantial dividends. Their keen local apprentices have now assisted them in renovating the Bandar school, one of just eleven schools in this fairly big city in the Upper Nile region.

Working with thirty younglings, the project initially focused on providing the novices with basic carpentry and bricklaying skills. The seven-week-long course aimed at improving both their chances of making a living and, by extension, the infrastructure of the country after years of debilitating conflict.

In July, the eager trainees used their newfound expertise to the benefit of the local community by putting up shelters for returnees in areas around Upper Nile � in Banglai, Gelachel and Nangdar.

Of all the trainings I’ve attended since 2013, this has been the best because we did everything practically from seemingly simple things like how to hold a nail properly to avoid hitting our fingers with hammers, to more difficult tasks like building walls, said one of the students, Obach Okan, at the time when the basic engineering course concluded.

A few months after their first shelter-construction intervention, the energetic trainees have been at it again. This time, they worked alongside their mentors to renovate Bandar school, which badly needed a more than cosmetic facelift.

The school, the learning space for hundreds of children, displayed walls and window frames barely holding together, yet students had to continue their studies in these structures, made even more dangerous and worn down by the prolonged rainy season.

When we first walked into the compound we even wondered where to begin, says Wilson Amum. But this is how it is everywhere in South Sudan, so we know that we have a lot of work to do to rebuild our country.

For almost two months, the engineers spent their weekends, teaching and working diligently alongside their proverbial tradesmen, rendering walls with cement to prevent further damage from the weather, and stripping out and replacing window frames.

The students were really keen to learn as much as they could. They were asking questions to further their knowledge and were quick to put it into practice, says Sapper Greenwood, one member of the engineering taskforce from the United Kingdom who mentored the students.

The second and third phases of the Bandar school project will involve extensive paintwork carried out by Indian peacekeepers and the establishment of a kitchen garden by Rwandese troops based in Malakal.

The laudable venture is being conducted in partnership with the UN High Commission for Refugees and the Humanitarian Development Consortium, a South Sudanese non-governmental organization.

Source: UN Mission in South Sudan