Trees symbolizing United Nations values planted in eight schools for displaced children in Bentiu

UNMISS UN Day bentiu united nations humanitarian partners tree planting human rights peace

UNMISS and humanitarian partners came together with displaced communities for a tree-planting exercise to commemorate UN Day in Bentiu. Photo by Roseline Nzelle Nkwelle/UNMISS.

24 Oct 2021

Trees symbolizing United Nations values planted in eight schools for displaced children in Bentiu

Roseline Nzelle Nkwelle

Today is United Nations Day, marking 76 years since the Organization was founded to promote universal ideals for the betterment of humanity in the wake of World War II.

As conflict, COVID-19 and displacement continue in the world’s youngest nation, South Sudan, UN personnel in Bentiu, Unity state, came together to plant trees in eight schools for displaced children.

These trees are symbolic of the universal values that the UN stands for.

“I named the first tree I planted, Human Rights, because that is the basis of a truly democratic nation,” said Lieutenant Colonel Michael Mfum, Commander of Ghanaian troops serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

And so, the ceremony continued with UN workers from civilian, military, police and humanitarian backgrounds, visiting the eight schools with shovels in hand, gallons of water and a genuine zeal to commemorate this important Day.

Sitting under trees during sunlit days is a cultural norm in South Sudan and the tree planting exercise was, therefore, a welcome activity by schoolchildren and community members alike.

Acting Director-General of Education and Instruction for Unity State, Kueth Mayay, said as much while attending the event.

 “The trees you have planted in these schools today will not only provide shade, but they will also give food to the schoolchildren,” he stated. “Educationists and students alike are now obligated to ensure that the United Nations core values represented by these trees are upheld to the highest degree,” he added.

Avocado, mango and guava trees, thus, became symbols of peace, justice, respect for human rights, tolerance, solidarity, education, friendship and unity.

“Using fruit-bearing trees to instill values in our children is a powerful thing because these children are our future leaders,” averred Simon Thir Tekjiek, the supervisor for schools for displaced children. “When the trees start bearing fruits, our young students will recall beautiful memories of UNMISS and the humanitarian partners. More importantly, they will serve as a constant reminder of what the UN stands for.”

Just as the school children are being groomed and nurtured into responsible citizens, these trees will need attention and care to flourish.

“As South Sudan’s partner in education for all, we will follow up with these schools to ensure that the trees we have planted are nurtured,” said David Ngon Kueth, an Education Officer with UNICEF. “We hope that taking care of these trees will give children a sense of leadership and universal values as they go forward in their lives.”