World Bulletin/News Desk
The political crisis that erupted in South Sudan in mid-December has wrought havoc on the nascent country's education infrastructure, with a number of schools destroyed and learning materials looted – especially in the war-ravaged Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states.
"This has created a setback in the education system because we all have to go back to zero," Ngier Bahnguot Najang, director-general at Unity State's Education Ministry, told Anadolu Agency.
Najang said that many schools, especially those in provincial capital Bentiu, have been damaged in the recent fighting.
He added that civilians who had sought refuge inside school buildings had used doors, windows and desks for firewood.
The official also accused rebels of stealing everything that wasn't nailed down and deliberately torching the remaining facilities.
There have been reports that a number of local schools have been taken over by internally displaced persons and – in some cases – by armed groups.
"Public buildings, including schools, are being used as shelter by affected communities," according to a report issued by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in South Sudan.
The report added that 19 schools in seven states were currently occupied by displaced persons and armed groups.
South Sudan has been shaken by violence since mid-December, when President Salva Kiir accused his sacked vice-president, Riek Machar, of standing behind a failed coup attempt against his regime.
Machar has consistently denied the coup charge, but has nevertheless continued to lead a rebellion against Kiir.
The violence has already claimed more than 10,000 lives, while the UN estimates that more than 820,000 people have been displaced by the conflict.
Following weeks of talks, the warring rivals signed an agreement on January 23 aimed at ending nearly six weeks of fighting.
A second round of talks is scheduled to be held in the Ethiopian capital next week.
The Unity State education official insisted that both government and people were determined to protect children's right to education.
"Having held a meeting with parents in the region, we have unanimously agreed to open schools on February 15 – and the children are equally in agreement with that, which is encouraging news," Ngier said.
He asserted that teachers were ready to get back to work as soon as the schools had reopened.
"Teachers who had fled the crisis have also reported back to start their daily work," the official noted.
Although Western Equatoria State has not seen any fighting, it nevertheless faces numerous challenges in terms of education.
Pia Philip, state minister for education, said that many internally displaced people and their children had recently come to the state seeking refuge.
He said that local authorities planned to incorporate the children of refugees into local schools.
"We're not going to open separate schools," he told AA.
"We shall incorporate them into already existing ones," added Philip, calling on students who had fled other states to take up their studies in the states in which they were currently being accommodated.Last Mod: 09 Şubat 2014, 11:23