Peace through Education in South Sudan.
The main issue dominating discussions on South Sudan among bodies such as the South Sudanese peace partners; TROIKA, UN bodies, AU, IGAD, government officials, organizations, churches, communities and individuals today, is about peace in South Sudan. Yes, as of now, the guns are somehow silent in many parts of the country. But my question is;“Will lasting peace really ever prevail in South Sudan or it is only pausing sounds of guns?”
You may agree with me that after the signing of the revitalized peace agreement in 2018, followed by the formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU), to date, there is relative peace in many parts of the country. But new concerns haveinstead intensified. These concernsinclude inter-tribal conflicts, road ambushes, and encroachment of cattle to other territories across the country, creating tension and conflicts in the areas affected, among others, not underrating threats from floods, draughts, famine and displacements in the country.
My observation is that something very important has been ignored in the country and this to me, is the major cause of all the troubles the country is undergoing, thus my pessimism of any lasting peace, if the situation is not reversed. This ignored thing is Education.
When South Sudan got her independence in 2011, Education was given attention by the government and partners and picked up very well; teachers at every level, were contented as they were fairly paid, many Teacher Training Institutes supported by the government such as Rombur TTI, Arapi TTI, Maridi TTI, Maper TTI, Panyagor TTI, Rumbek TTI, Kajo-Keji TTI, in addition to private and church aided institutes such as Yei Teacher Training College (YTTC), and Solidarity PTC, were fully operational and production of qualified teachers to handle teaching across the country was excellent. You might have also realized that during that time, tribal clashes, road attacks, rampant movement of cows and so on, were minimum.
Along the way, the situation changed. Teachers’ salaries cannot longer buy even a bag of charcoal, in addition to being very irregular. Working conditions for teachers deteriorated significantly. Strikes have become common in public schools and Universities.
Those teachers with high qualifications like Masters, bachelor’s degrees, and diplomas, abandoned the profession for non-governmental organizations and private businesses. The public Teacher Training Institutes (TTIs)ceased to be active as students are also no longer enrolling, in addition to other factors. The profession has completely lost value if not dead!
Now, education survives in the hand of the private sector, where learners pay high school fees from which the teachers get their pay. Teachers remaining in the government schools now,are either those who have not yet got any opportunity elsewhere, or are those without qualifications or with little education. This has badly affected the quality of education in the countryleading to frustrations and drop outs among learners.
These drop outs, the children who have not enrolled in schools because their parents have lost hope in the education of the country or have no money to pay, the stranded teachers, the uneducated and disgruntled members of the communities across the country are in one way or the other part of the problem of the country. This is because these groups may be easy to manipulate for ill intentions by any individual/politician. As long as education remains in this state, this country will never experience stability.
Take samples of countries whose education systems are well taken care of in the region and compare with South Sudan, in terms of peace, security and development. Which is lagging behind and why?
My message is that the major problem of South Sudan is the ignored education sector. If this situation is reversed, the country will get back on track. All those who truly want to see permanent peace in South Sudan; organizations, countries, churches, individuals and so on, should support education in this country to see what I mean.
One way to do this, is by supporting the teacher training programmes which TTIs that are still operational like Yei Teacher Training College, in conjunction with some of the national and international education partners are currently trying to rejuvenate across the country, with the hope that the position of the education sector in the country is Not permanent. More reinforcement should be given to this.
Kenyi Peter Alison Motijan