LWF Offers Education and Protection to Sudanese Refugees in Volatile South Sudan
EU ‘Children of Peace’ Initiative Helps Students from Conflict Zones
(LWI) - It has been over two years since 17 year-old Walid Awad Majir and his two brothers settled in neighboring South Sudan, fleeing conflict at home in South Kordofan, Sudan.
He recalls the date—30 December 2011—when military planes bombed Koda village in Iban county, killing three family members—“our mother, father and a baby sister.’’ Majir and his younger brother Mowe were at school and Kur, 21, was also not at home during the attack.
With support from relatives and neighbors, the siblings left home on 1 January 2012 and headed towards Yida refugee camp in South Sudan’s Unity State. Majir recalls the frustration and pain of losing their parents and sibling, coupled with the challenging journey to safety.
‘’It took us a total of 17 days to be able to reach Yida camp. We had to hide for a number of days in some locations. We were fired at by [the military planes] and passed many villages that were being bombed. It was the most difficult period of my life,’’ he says.
Today, the three brothers live in Ajoung Thok refugee camp in Unity State, which together with the Upper Nile State are hosting over 211,000 refugees from Sudan. Since 2012, The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) has been providing access to education as part of its emergency assistance to Sudanese refugees in both states and other regions of South Sudan.
Since March this year, Majir has been attending classes under the LWF-coordinated accelerated learning program (ALP). The education program is supported by the European Union (EU) Children of Peace project, which was established after the EU won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012. The goal is to offer children and young people affected by conflict access to schools where they can learn in a safe environment, and also receive psychosocial support to heal from the traumatic experiences of war.
Like thousands of 12-17 year-old refugees here, Majir comes from a traditionally marginalized state in Sudan, where conflict has led to the collapse of the education system. He can now learn in a safe school environment and catch up with his peers. ‘’I am a very happy person in Ajoung Thok,’’ he adds.
Intensive, Integrated Process
The Children of Peace project under LWF’s implementation in South Sudan was inaugurated in December 2013, but the conflict that started in South Sudan the same month disrupted its starting schedule.
In an emergency context, the program offers an intensive, integrated process that caters to the most disadvantaged refugee students. It provides optimal learning conditions aimed at resulting in higher retention and attainment levels.
A total of 3,500 Sudanese students in Yussif Batil and Kaya refugee camps (Maban county, Upper Nile State) and in Ajoung Thok, will benefit from the ALP initiative. In addition, teachers have been recruited for the program. The host community students who are already participating in LWF’s primary and secondary school programs will also benefit from much-needed school equipment including desks.
The ALP students will not only gain increased educational awareness about the dangers of armed conflict and issues surrounding violence and protection, but they will also have greater access to child/youth protection mechanisms. LWF’s additional support includes help desks and child rights clubs as well as training opportunities for teachers to be able to respond more effectively to child protection incidences within the camp.
As part of the South Sudanese ALP curriculum, HIV and AIDS awareness, human rights, hygiene promotion and environmental education are taught alongside academic subjects, with a goal to mainstreaming life skills education into the program.
Current Conflict Poses Major Risk
Still, the learning project could be jeopardized by the ongoing fighting in South Sudan, which has displaced nearly 1.5 million people since December 2013, and pushed over 400,000 refugees into the neighboring countries. There is a growing shortage of food, with the World Food Program estimating that 3.9 million people are at high risk of food insecurity.
While LWF continues to assist South Sudanese refugees in neighboring countries and internally displaced persons (IDPs), humanitarian intervention is hampered by insecurity in several areas, the current rainy season and inadequate funding. In the context of conflict and insecurity, there is high potential for tension between the host communities and the IDPs and refugees over resources.
(The interviews with ALP students in Ajoung Thok were conducted by Birhanu Waka, team leader for the Unity State operations of the LWF World Service program in South Sudan.)