As South Sudan’s ongoing peace process reaches a critical juncture with the recent 24-month extension of its ongoing transitional period, the full participation of young people in the country’s democratic transition is crucial.

To this end, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) recently held a two-month cultural exchange among six secondary schools in Rumbek, Lakes state.

School teachers from each of the six selected schools set aside Thursdays and Fridays for spirited discussions with students on a range of topics, including the importance of social cohesion, embracing coexistence and forging a national identity.

The aim: To use performing arts as a way of overcoming differences and inculcating a culture of peace among young minds.

“Peace begins with early education,” said Juzzella Agar John, Director General at the state Ministry of Youth, Culture and Sports.

Ms. Agar was speaking at the culmination of this endeavour, spearheaded in large part by the UN Peacekeeping mission’s Civil Affairs Division, which was a well-attended gathering at the Freedom Hall in Rumbek, where participating students performed peace songs, narrated poetry and showcased their acting skills through dramatic performances.

“It is my hope that all students who have participated in this event carry their powerful messages of harmony to their communities,” she added.

Ms. Agar’s words were echoed by Gibril Turay, a Civil Affairs Officer working with UNMISS.

“Children and young people are the future of this nation. Our objective as South Sudan’s partner for peace is to create platforms where they have the chance to convene, connect and form bonds that transcend conflict,” stated Mr Turay.   

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Perhaps the most simple but eloquent endorsement of this peacebuilding initiative came from Julia Mangar, a student from Bishop Mozzalari Memorial Secondary School.

“This two-month exchange programme brought creativity, critical thinking and, above all, united participating students from my school with our fellow pupils across Rumbek in the pursuit of peace. We worked hard and became friends, regardless of which community we belong to. Seeing all of us together during the event has given me hope for a better, brighter future,” she said.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

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