By Bonifacio Taban Kuich
August 30, 2012 (BENTIU) - Elderly members of the community in South Sudan’s Unity State are raising funds to build schools for children who lose their parents during the civil war that led to South Sudan’s independence last year.
- Peter Dak Gatluak Director of the Unity State Education Ministry and Chairperson of the Martyrs, Soldiers’ Children Construction Schools and Mobilization Committee talks with Sudan Tribune in his Bentiu office, 30 August 2012 (ST)
One of the proposed schools will be in Rubkotna County with other schools planned for neighbouring Mayom and Parieng Counties.
Recently a seven-member committee was formed by the government to oversee development of contributions for the projects from around the Unity State. Local chiefs and spiritual elders from both Mayom and Rubkotna have already contributed 30 large bulls in order to support the construction of schools for martyr’s children in Rotriak Payam [district] in Rubkotna County.
The idea was proposed by state ministry of education and elder groups in Unity State, but due to current austerity measures caused by the cessation of oil-production in January as part of a dispute over transport fees with the Sudanese government. The lack of funds available from the state government led to the administration in Bentiu reaching out to communities to support the construction of the new schools.
Education is a major issue in the young nation. Less than 30% of people can read and write due to systemic underinvestment and decades of conflict.
Peter Dak Gatluak, Director General of Unity State’s Ministry of Education, who is also the chairperson of the Martyrs, Soldiers’ Children Construction Schools and Mobilization Committee says the move was openly supported by people in the state.
He added that his teams are working on selling the cows for the best price possible in order to use the funds to begin the projects. Gatluak added that the bulls should fetch from 1800 South Sudanese Pound but can reach up to 2000 SSP depending on the market.
State-run radio has encouraged Unity State’s nine counties to donate cows in order to bank roll the school building scheme.
Gatluak said the government was going ahead with construction in Rotriak payam in Rubkotna County but that the eventually new education centres would be built in the other eight counties, “if they are not running out of fund contribution”.
Top state government officials in the state, including the governor Taban Deng Gai reacted positively to the example shown by spiritual leaders Gatdeng in Mayom and Gatturoal in Rubkotna who contributed 20 cows, the local chief Tuonguar Kueynguong with 5 bulls, and State Prison Services Director Liah Diu, who contributed another 5 bulls.
Tuonguar Kueynguong the paramount chief of Bentiu asked everyone in the state to contribute to remember the soldiers whose blood was shed in the two-decade were that led to South Sudan’s independence.
Kueynguong urged the general public not to wait for the state government to have the funds for the project but to start moving the project themselves.
“Today at last after [a] long struggle we have the Republic of South Sudan because we lost too many lives of our sons and daughters”, said Kueynguong.
He added there is need to build a permanent memorial schools across the state, saying that it was not enough just to say "we have heroes", this should be demonstrated by providing the next generation with education.
Mathok Gatkuoth deputy chairperson of the committee said they have found over 200 children without access to a school in recent assessment in Rotriak payam.
Gatkuoth added that there is need to educate them as they will be country’s future leaders. "We need to do something for the children of our martyrs because they offered their lives for South Sudan’s independence."