Rwandan peacekeepers serving under United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) have facilitated schoolchildren to sit primary leaving examinations, the United Nations has said.
A statement sent to The New Times by Douglas T Coffman of the Strategic Communications Division, Department of Public Information at the UN Headquarters in New York, says that the Rwanda Defence Forces battalion transported the students to ensure their safety throughout the examination period.
Some of the schoolchildren sat their exams at a UN base in Malakal.
“For the first time, the UN Mission in South Sudan’s Upper Nile office together with humanitarian partners facilitated the schooling leaving examinations in Religious Education, English, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies,” the statement said.
It quoted the acting UNMISS Head of Field Office, Anthony Agyenta, as saying that it was “a privilege for UNMISS and the Rwandan contingent to provide this service which adds towards building peace and protecting civilians in this part of the country.”
“This is an essential part of our support for peaceful transformation in the Upper Nile region,” he added. “We want to use opportunities such as this to advocate for a new beginning for the children of South Sudan.
“Their enthusiasm is a strong message to the leaders, to South Sudan and to the world that they have lost a lot and are keen to rebuild a new future that is bright and promising.”
Of the 117 candidates, 60 were female.
For the last eight years, the students have been studying at two primary schools at the UN Protection site.
“The exam was 50-50,” said Rita Chol, a 55-year old candidate. “But even if I don’t pass this time, I will still sit again next year until I succeed. Learning never stops.”
Chol said she was attending school with her children and grandchildren. “They even help me study and understand what we are learning.”
Dominic Johnson, another candidate, said: “The exam was good. I am very grateful to UNMISS for giving us transport to take us from the POC (United Nations Protection of Civilians) to town and back to enable us to sit our exams.”
Chol added: “I am appealing to those my age to go back to school to remind themselves of things we learnt and to keep busy.”
Supporting students to sit examinations and continue with their education is important so they get the opportunity to reach their full potential, the United Nations said in the statement.
“It also contributes to the UN Mission’s role in helping internally displaced people feel confident and safe enough to return to their homes and have the skills they need to support themselves in the long-term.”
“UNMISS and our humanitarian partners are looking forward to the reopening of even more schools in this state, for teachers to return to teaching, for children from all over to return to learning, and for all of us to work together to build the future for South Sudan that everyone is hoping for,” Agyenta said.
“The fact that we have both the young and the old coming together to learn and sit the examinations is a sign of rejuvenated hope in this society.”