28th September 2023
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S Sudan launches Safe Schools Declaration

Author: Charles Wote | Published: Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Schoolgirls in South Sudan | Credit | Girls Education South Sudan/GESS

The government has launched the Safe Schools Declaration – committing to protecting learning institutions from attack and occupation by the armed forces across the country.

The 27-page document is an intergovernmental political commitment and agreement that outlines a set of commitment to strengthen the protection of education from attack and restrict the use of schools and other learning institutions by the armed forces.

The declaration offers a guideline on concrete measures that armed forces and non-state actors can take to avoid military use of educational facilities, to reduce the risk of attack and mitigate the impact of attacks and military use when they occur.

Speaking during the launching ceremony in Juba earlier today, the vice president for Service Cluster said those who carried out attacks on schools during the six-year conflict must face justice.

Hussein Abdelbagi, however, emphasized on the importance of supporting survivors of attacks on schools.

“Perpetrators must be prosecuted, but survivors of attacks on education must also receive services and support to enable them heal,” the VP stated.

According to the Ministry of General Education, more than 150 schools were used for military purposes and hundreds of children were abducted from their classrooms since the start of the conflict in December 2013.

It adds that from 2013 to date, about 293 incidents of attacks on schools or protected persons or of military use of schools were reported across the country.

The document, titled: “Protect children in conflict in South Sudan” is expected to protect students, teachers, schools and other learning institutions from some of the worst effects of armed conflicts.

The document highlights physical structure, school environment and facilities used in rural and urban areas in South Sudan.

In September 2020, the Minister of Defense signed a commitment letter reaffirming the army commitment which prohibits military members from occupying schools and interfering with or disrupting schools.

Vacate learning facilities

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defense has instructed soldiers occupying schools in Tambura to vacate them immediately.

“What is happening in Western Equatoria is still our responsibility. Our forces are going to have them evacuate those schools,” said Major General Chuol Bial, undersecretary.

The UN says the Tambura conflict between two armed groups erupted in June, killing over 200 people and about 100,000 others displaced to mostly Ezo, Nzara, Yambio, Nagero and Wau.

It accused the SPLA-IO and SSPDF in the state of fueling the conflict between two communities in the area.

In September 2021, the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan revealed that over 100 civilians were massacred in the violence in August.

It stated that some of the victims – mostly women and children – were “raped and sexually violated before being murdered”.

Several leaders, including priests, activists and some government officials have called for an end to the conflict.

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