Why children in South Sudan are pretending to be in school

A young boy from South Sudan who has been forced to flee his home due to violence.
A young boy from South Sudan who has been forced to flee his home due to violence.

“Our children are dying”

A father comes to me and shows me an empty plate.

In a loud voice, he says: “We need food and medicines. Our children are dying.”

We are in the UN Protection of Civilian site in South Sudan’s Juba, home to more than 38,000 people who’ve had to leave their homes because of the recent violent conflict.

Around the camp children are not going to school.

The only thing they can do is gather in a tent and pretend they’re in class.

They sing and play for hours before returning to their tents.

Heart-breaking sights

I see a group of children between three and six years old playing with clay.

They mold helicopters, tanks, soldiers and machine-guns.

Children at this age usually mold cars, houses, cooking pots and dolls – things that reflect their dreams and what they learn in school.

My spirit is crushed.

I wonder what the future holds for my young brothers and sisters.

Join our call to protect children caught in conflict.

Toys of soldiers and guns made by children in South Sudan's capital Juba.
Toys of soldiers and guns made by children in South Sudan’s capital Juba.

Fleeing conflict

South Sudan is on the brink of losing its entire young population.

Surrounded by violent conflict, South Sudanese children are forced to make desperate journeys to find safety instead of going to school.

Since 2013, 1.61 million people have been internally displaced, 900,000 of whom are children.

51% of school-age children in South Sudan are out of school.

This is the highest proportion of out-of-school children in the world.

Reports estimate that, between 2013 and 2015, armed groups recruited 16,000 children.

The future of South Sudan

South Sudan has huge potential because of its large youth population.

But this potential depends on how it cares for its children.

Nelson Mandela was known for his deep love of children. “Our children are our greatest treasure,” he said.

“They are our future. Those who abuse them tear at the fabric of our society and weaken our nation.”

Mandela’s words speak directly to the plight of vulnerable children in war-ravaged South Sudan today, where UNICEF described the violence against children by armed groups as “unspeakable”.

The world must act

Peace must be found; guns must go silent.

The world must come to our rescue or there will be no one to fly South Sudan’s flag in the future.

The children of this country are battling violence, hunger, disease and lack of education.

They’re bearing a heavy burden they didn’t create.

This should not be a death sentence. The world must act now.

Join our call to protect children caught in conflict.

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