During a spirited and convivial UN Day commemoration in Wau, children from different schools stole the show by advocating for peace, development and, of course, education for all. Photo by Roseline Nzelle Nkwelle/UNMISS
WESTERN BAHR EL GHAZAL – Yesterday, the bright and sunny skies of Wau, Western Bahr El Ghazal’s capital, were opportune.
People from all walks of life came together for a special occasion: Marking 12 years since South Sudan proudly became the 193rd member of the United Nations (UN), as well as the Organization’s steadfast support to this young nation since then.
What stood out amidst the usual speeches and cultural performances were the voices of young school children who advocated for peace, security, and education for all.
“The UN constructs schools helping children across our state have decent facilities to gain knowledge,” said Angelina Paul, a student of Homing Dove International School.
“Often, we have seen people from the UN hand over notebooks, pens, and pencils to us, as well as give us free school meals. This means a lot to us, and I hope all students in our beautiful country can benefit similarly from the UN,” she added.
Also lending their voices to the occasion were a committed group of ‘young reporters’—a collective of South Sudanese students who are education advocates under the aegis of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF)—who urged state actors and partners to intensify their commitment towards lasting peace.
“We want to be educated with pens and pencils and not be handed guns to fight,” said a UNICEF young reporter. “Children belong in school and not in armed groups,” an eloquent statement that drew much applause from everybody attending the event.
On the margins of the event, peacekeepers from China and Bangladesh serving for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), who are approaching the end of their tour of duty, won hearts and minds by hosting a free medical camp where they treated common illnesses.
An eight-year-old boy with a wounded leg was perhaps the most appreciative, as he gave Blue Helmets a thumbs up and a smile.
“I could list all the ways in which the UN has helped the people of Western Bahr El Ghazal, or I could express my heartfelt gratitude,” said Sarah Cleto Hassan, state Governor. “I choose the latter—thank you for being our supporter. Your service to the people of South Sudan is immensely valued.”
This year, UN Day across the country is being commemorated against a complex backdrop of regional tensions, dwindling humanitarian resources and a need for the country’s leaders to galvanize political will to complete South Sudan’s long overdue democratic transition by holding its first post-independence elections next December.