January 26, 2024 – The protracted civil war in South Sudan, which started in 2012 in the aftermath of long years of the independence war with Sudan, left a devastating impact on generations, tearing apart the social fabric. Despite the nation’s independence in 2011, the specter of conflict persisted, resulting in enduring trauma for the younger generation, which has manifested itself in violent mindsets. This notably finds expression in the form of neighborhood violence, characterized by youth forming gangs.

Unfortunately, youths bear the brunt of the violence, and they have suffered from profound physical and psychological trauma since 2013. These repercussions threaten the future stability of the world’s youngest nation as they are exacerbated by a decline in core social values and a dearth of credible leaders capable of addressing the emergence of these self-styled gangs. Fear and hopelessness  among young people, especially adolescents in major towns like Juba, prevail due to unemployment, hunger, substance abuse, peer pressure, and inadequate parental care. 

In response, WPDI has been working in schools to teach Conflict Resolution Education to children and teachers to foster the emergence of a culture of peace and nonviolence. In 2023, in collaboration with the Education Above All Foundation and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, we established 49 peace clubs in schools, targeting 3,400 young people in Central Equatoria State. These clubs aim to address the existing peace gap by providing extensive education in Peacebuilding, Conflict Resolution, peer mediation, communication skills, identity, emotions, and leadership. The Conflict Resolution Education in Schools’ program operates on the assumption that teaching Conflict Resolution in schools can equip young people with the knowledge and skills needed to foster positive transformations within their communities, promoting productivity and peace.

Last month, WPDI South Sudan was proud to certify 3,200 young learners in Central Equatoria State who successfully completed a 6-month Peace Education program in schools. Josephine Wani, a dedicated Peace Club member, expressed gratitude on behalf of her fellow members for WPDI’s empowering initiatives in peace and Conflict Resolution Education for school students. She highlighted the valuable lessons learned, including “mediation techniques, conflict resolution strategies, peacebuilding principles, human rights awareness, and effective communication skills. The club members have also delved into understanding emotions, fostering a sense of identity, and embracing servant leadership principles.”

With this newfound knowledge, the young boys and girls actively engage in conflict resolution and peer mediation, contributing to the pursuit of enduring peace and development in the country. Their commitment to applying these skills to all aspects of life demonstrates the tangible impact of WPDI’s efforts in fostering a positive and harmonious environment. 

One teacher remarked how the atmosphere in his school has been transformed by the program. “The introduction of the Peace Education program by WPDI has created a positive change in our school because the children who have learned Conflict Resolution Education are now able to resolve conflict issues alone without teachers. They are the ones who mediate conflict issues; giving teachers ample time to prepare for lessons. Cases of fighting in the school have also reduced drastically as a result of the program. What WPDI has done is so great in the lives of the learners, the school and the communities.” Nelson Ocen, teacher at Green Hill Nursery and Primary School, Juba.

WPDI recognizes the urgent need to reframe the impact of conflict in South Sudan, and remains committed to the future of peace building in South Sudan: the youth. By empowering the younger generation with essential skills, WPDI is confident that a sustainable environment can be strengthened in view of fostering lasting peace and development in South Sudan.

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