Some 130 students, both girls and boys, drawn from two secondary schools in Aweil, Northern Bahr-el-Ghazal state, participated in a debate organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to mark International Day of Peace.
Spirited discussions ensued between teams drawn from Aweil National and South Sudan Education Center which centred around whether the Revitalized Peace Agreement, signed by the parties to conflict in South Sudan in 2018, should be taught in their schools as part of the regular curriculum.
“I supported the motion because there is lack of information about the Agreement,” said 19-year-old John Akol Aleu, a student of Aweil National. “People know there is a Peace Agreement, but they do not know what the substance of it is. We must include it in the curriculum so that it can be taught to us in school and we become fully conversant with each chapter and article.”
The competition was stiff, but Akol and his team of five speakers won the ultimate prize: UNMISS branded wall clocks and bags.
“I am very happy because my team won the debate. By including the Peace Agreement as part of our mandatory school lessons, we will be teaching our children about peace and they will grow up with a mindset of social harmony. This is how we will build durable peace in our country,” averred an excited Akol.
Speakers from the opposite side argued that conflict is always underpinned by politicians for their own interests. Students do not fight among themselves.
We must include it in the curriculum so that it can be taught to us in school and we become fully conversant with each chapter and article
“I opposed the idea of including the Agreement in the curriculum because it is not gender sensitive enough,” reveals 20-year-old Ayi Chol from South Sudan Education Center. “The Agreement talks of 35% representation for women. To my mind, this is a paltry figure and it ignores the power of women in our country. In my opinion, the Revitalized Agreement isn’t an inclusive document."
South Sudan has experienced devastating civil wars and young people have been among the most affected.
“I was very happy that UNMISS organized this debate because it functioned as a source of peace education,” stated Priscilla Abuk, a participating student. “Without peace in our hearts and minds, young people face the risk of falling prey to warmongers and ethnic divisions,” she added.
Another student, Viviana Akol Marach, agrees with Priscilla.
“The debate is very important because it brought us together and made us reflect on peace and coexistence,” she said.
Alfred Zulu, Acting Head of Field Office, UNMISS Aweil, encouraged students to continue such debates as it cultivates the spirit of peace at a tender age.
“Peace means a resolution to conflict. Dissemination of the Peace Agreement is important for everybody, including students. Thus, if all schools in South Sudan from the lowest level of learning to the highest echelons of education teach young generations about peace, there will be a culture of harmony here,” stated Mr. Zulu.
The event concluded with peace songs and poems.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).