Planting roots for education: UNMISS peacekeepers donate tree seedlings to local school in Juba

15 Oct 2018

Planting roots for education: UNMISS peacekeepers donate tree seedlings to local school in Juba

Leni Kinzli

Clad in their bright yellow school uniforms, the young school children at the Exodus Junior Academy in Juba welcomed the arrival of peacekeepers serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan with a song and dance about trees. 

“Let us give back to nature by planting trees. Let us plant trees for better learning, let us plant trees for a better future,” the students’ voices rang out in chorus as the team from the mission pulled up.

Why this joyous musical outburst about embellishing their school on the outskirts of the capital with more greenery? Because planting trees, and showing the pupils how to do it, was the reason for the peacekeepers’ special visit. The activity was part of the UN mission’s Carbon Sink Initiative, designed to reduce its ecological footprint in the country.

Founded in 2015 with an initial 70 pupils, enrolment at Exodus is currently up to nearly 200, having persevered through the outbreak of conflict in Juba in 2016, which nearly brought the school to its knees. Now the quaint-looking structure, built out of bamboo, teak poles, mud walls and a roof made of iron sheets, stands proud.

The young boys and girls, on the other hand, stood curious and eager to learn around Farai Mushayavanhu, an environmental education officer from UNMISS. Holding a petite mahogany seedling, he explained in detail the proper steps and procedures to nurture and care for the sapling. 

Rebecca Ladu, a girl from Primary Five, showed particular interest.  

“We learned how we can plant trees today. We can get sources of medicine. We can sit under the tree. We can even get fruits. It will make our school beautiful,” she said.

The little tree, when firmly set in the ground, was off to a great start in life: seconds after being planted it was welcomed by drops of water falling down from the sky. Its addition to the school, placed directly in the middle of the otherwise drab compound, was greeted with enthusiasm for the learning opportunities it would provide.

“Having trees in our compound is going to enhance the learning of our pupils and they will become more competent in issues concerning nature and the environment,” said Sokiri Ambamba George, Headmaster of Exodous.

“This is going to enrich our environment and our pupils are going to benefit from the shade, nurturing environment, good weather conditions, and fruits that we are going to get from the trees,” he added.

The Carbon Sink Initiative, led by the peacekeeping mission’s environmental engineering section and undertaken in collaboration with the government of South Sudan, is distributing 5,000 indigenous tree seedlings across the mission and to various schools, sports centres, and institutions.

As the rain started coming down more heavily, the planting of the remaining seventeen trees, including mango, lemon, guava, and teak, was postponed. The learning session, however, has just started.