UNMISS renovates primary school in Mayom as the UN Secretary-General launches new policy brief on education
“The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the largest disruption of education ever,” said United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres while launching the policy brief on COVID-19 and education earlier this month. In his introduction to the brief, the Secretary-General added that despite worldwide efforts made to deliver lessons by radio, television and online, many students remain out of reach. “Learners with disabilities, those in minority or disadvantaged communities, displaced and refugee students and those in remote areas are at highest risk of being left behind,” he stated.
UNMISS, through its Quick Impact Projects programme, has made it possible for some of these hard-to-reach students in Mayom, Unity State, to access education by handing over a fully renovated primary school. The project aims at creating an enabling environment for the safe return of community members and their children who were displaced by erstwhile conflicts. It was actioned by the mission’s Relief, Reintegration and Protection (RRP) section in collaboration with local implementing partner Child’s Destiny and Development Organisation (CHIDDO).
The handover was greatly appreciated by the residents of Mayom. “Our existing primary school was devastated during the civil war; the renovations made by UNMISS peacekeepers have not only brought the school back to life but also given all of us here much-needed hope,” said Kerthiang Beliew, a traditional leader, while expressing his gratitude to the mission.
Speaking at the handover, George Gachang Puok, UNMISS RRP, reiterated the mission’s commitment to creating a conducive environment for voluntary returns. “Many of our activities under the QIPs programme are oriented towards supporting basic facilities needed by local communities. The refurbishment of this school is a key example, especially now, since education across the world has been greatly affected by the coronavirus pandemic. We hope that Mayom residents will manage the school well and we are always here to provide them with additional support, should they need it,” averred Mr. Puok.
For his part, Isaac Mwesigye, Team Leader for the mission’s Engineering section in the Unity region, said that working towards developing infrastructure that will, hopefully, restore families separated and displaced by conflict is a privilege. “Our participation as engineers in renovating this school was a special time since the most important thing in life for children is learning. We are thankful to the representatives of the Government of South Sudan for their cooperation with us in completing the project,” stated Mr. Mwesigye.
The refurbished primary school consists of three blocks of eight classrooms designed to accommodate some 500 students as well as an office space. This UNMISS Quick Impact Project exemplifies three of the four key areas outlined in the Secretary-General’s policy brief—reopening schools, prioritizing education in financing decisions, targeting the hardest to reach, and lastly, reimagining education by establishing forward-looking systems that deliver quality education for all as a springboard for the Sustainable Development Goals.
Furthermore, the collaborative nature of the project, in general, could also be a fitting illustration of the Secretary-General Guterres’ new campaign with education partners and United Nations agencies called ‘Save our Future,’ which was announced in tandem with the policy brief.