UNMISS facilitates mentoring education programme for 120 street children in Aweil town

unmiss south sudan aweil street children mentoring school education

These children living on the streets of Aweil town are saying yes to a chance to go to school. Photos: Emmanuel Kele/UNMISS

1 Jun 2021

UNMISS facilitates mentoring education programme for 120 street children in Aweil town

Emmanuel Kele

Children living on the streets has become an increasingly common problem in Northern Bahr-el-Ghazal State. The sad phenomenon is often linked with begging, petty thefts, exploitation, various kinds of abuse, not to mention a deprivation of opportunities to grow in life.

For this reason, the UN peacekeeping mission has recently conducted a four-week-long mentoring programme for 120 of them, with one aim being to get them to return to school.

It has been a challenging task, according to one of the youth volunteers involved in the training.

“These children are hard to handle because they are used to street life and the fighting and stealing that often come with it,” said 19-year-old Achol Cecilia Achol.

Local authorities are happy with the mentoring programme, but decidedly less so about children being either abandoned or feeling forced to flee their homes.

“We shall impose fines on parents who are not taking care of their children. Bringing a child into this world is not just for the sake of production,” said Kaku Lucia Alesio, the Minister of Gender, Child, and Social Welfare who officiated the graduation of the young boys and girls.

“These children have completed the education campaign. We shall now trace their parents and reintegrate them into their communities. Those who lack proper parental care will be taken care of in a specialized centre,” the Minister added.

The number of children living on the streets is said to have increased significantly in the wake of the poverty and limited access to education partly caused by years of armed conflict. Rising food prices are also thought to cause some desperate parents to abandon their offspring at an early age.

“I have called upon the government to apply measures to end the flow of children into the streets, many of whom end up begging. Children are vulnerable and they are innocent, and their innocence means they can easily be exploited and abused,” said Inecita Montero, acting head of the peacekeeping mission’s field office in Aweil.   

The mentoring of the children was conducted by twenty youth volunteers, who in turned had been trained by the peacekeeping mission.

“Even if only one of these children would get transformed that would be a great joy and pleasure to me and make it worth the effort. It is not easy, and I am not sure we can change them all, but I am hoping that I, as a youth myself, can make a difference,” said 25-year-old Joseph Quan, team leader for youth volunteers in Aweil town.