Frontline Stories

Life amid the South Sudan Conflict

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Living in a small house in the outskirts of South Sudan’s capital city Juba, Susanna has been raising her three grandchildren by herself. Insecurity in the African country has led to serious loss of life and over 1.9 million people seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. Most members of Susanna’s family, including her daughter and son-in-law, were killed in an attack on their village.

To make a living for herself and her grandchildren, Susanna began collecting and selling firewood. Recently, her neighbours invited her to visit the World Vision training centres. There, she was able to attend weekly educational lessons and receive a monthly allowance to purchase food for her family and invest in a business. The centre has also become a place for women in the community to share experiences and learn new skills.

“I’ve already made a lot of changes in our lives,” she explains. “I keep our hut and latrine clean and make sure food is prepared hygienically. I’m also learning how to set up a business and how to spend money responsibly.”

Sepit, Susanna’s eldest grandson, was also able to go to elementary school after she joined the training group. “I’ve always had many plans for my children, but I am now confident that they can actually come true,” she says. “I want to see them in good health and receiving a good education. I want their horizons to be broadened. If they are educated, they can see far and bring change to our country.”

An extraordinary head teacher

While some people like Susanna remain inside the country, others have managed to leave, ending up in refugee camps. 28-year-old Par is the head teacher of a World Vision-built primary school with 4,800 students in Kakuma Refugee Camp. A South Sudanese citizen from an impoverished family who had lost his father and two older brothers, Par was forced to quit school at a young age. In 2004, when he learned from aid workers that he could get a chance to study elsewhere, Par left his homeland with other boys. Few would have imagined back then, that some 13 years later, this young man who had once struggled just to keep his family alive would be helping his fellow countrymen as a teacher at a refugee camp in Kenya.

“We were brought here to Kakuma Refugee Camp. We stayed at the camp as unaccompanied minors. We struggled every day – getting food, cooking, fetching water – everything we did, we did by ourselves. There was nobody to take care of us.”

Nevertheless, that was when Par started studying again. Beginning from Grade 3, he went on to complete secondary school in 2014.

2014 would become a turning point in Par’s life. He got married and started volunteering as a maths teacher at a primary school. Despite his lack of experience, he excelled in the role. At the end of that year, his top student scored the highest mark in maths in the entire refugee camp. He has also become a popular figure among the students since then, which he believes is because of his ability to relate to what most of them have experienced as refugees.

Earlier this year, Par became the head teacher of the school. And he is very clear about what he wants to achieve.

“My goal is to help these students. Many South Sudanese enrol in school here, but they’re scarred by the past. Children arrive and they’ve lost a parent or sibling. They’ve witnessed gun fighting and other horrors. It takes a long time for them to let go of that hostility and be able to focus on their education. My main goal is to unite them, to create a culture of peace among them within the school. I urge them to commit to their education because it will help them in their future.

“When you get to see students succeeding, their minds and thoughts opening up, that’s a great thing to be part of.”

World Vision is actively responding to needs arising from the ongoing conflict in South Sudan, both inside and outside the country.

Learn more: Our work in South Sudan

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