A headteacher from southern Sudan explains the importance of MAG’s work for the future of his country.
Emmanuel Oching is the young headmaster of the Kuleu Lights Academy, a private nursery and primary school in the conflict-ridden town of Kapoeta.
|Kapoeta, Eastern Equatoria province|
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His country is still suffering the effects of more than 20 years of fighting between the Government of Sudan and armed groups in the south, which caused vast numbers of people to flee their homes and has left large areas contaminated by remnants of conflict.
As the education system in many parts of southern Sudan collapsed during the civil war, Emmanuel left Eastern Equatoria province for Uganda, to attend high school and then study to become a teacher. He returned in January last year, applied for a teaching job at the newly opened Kuleu Lights Academy and was hired immediately.
He learnt that the school where he was to begin working was built on land that had been a barrier minefield area around the perimeter of the Kapoeta, until it was cleared by MAG.
Kapoeta is one of the main towns in Eastern Equatoria and was a place of strategic importance before the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed between the Government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement in January 2005.
A house being built on the former minefield that surrounded the town of Kapoeta.
Both sides had laid the minefield to defend their positions, as the town was won and lost by the opposing sides. It eventually covered an area of more than 280,000 square metres. The minefield hindered development and complicated access to smaller villages in the surrounding area, creating a constant hazard for vulnerable groups, in particular children and women.
Once MAG handed the safe land back to the community, people were able to return to the town and begin rebuilding their lives, using the land for housing, agriculture and developing economic activities for the community, as well as well as the constructions of Emmanuel’s school.
“Before this area was demined people were not here, because of what was left over from the war,” Emmanuel says. “This area was only used for trapping and killing people. MAG is doing wondrous work because they are saving lives. They are reducing death so that people no longer step on bombs.
“Secondly, they are bringing people back in so that they can live here again. This area has changed a lot in terms of development since MAG cleared the mines.
"This area has changed a lot in terms of development since MAG cleared the mines."
– Emmanuel Oching
[Photo and top photo: J.B. Russell]
"People are now coming back, building houses and getting creative about development. The wasted land is now being used by the people. MAG must continue deeper and deeper into the areas where they have not yet been.”
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Not surprisingly, for Emmanuel the key to developing Kapoeta and the country as a whole is education. His efforts to teach the children in his school have not gone unnoticed. Only nine months after starting work at the academy, he was promoted to headmaster.
“I feel good about my work because I am helping children to get an education, but we are not just teaching them because they are supposed to get an education. It is also so that they will share what they have learned, so that they will become teachers themselves and educate others.
“I want them to understand the difference between them and the other children in the village who are not in school, so that my students will motivate the others to come to school too.
“On Wednesdays, we organise games and activities in the field across the road with the students from the school and other children from the villages so that they have an opportunity to mix, to play together and so the other children will see that it is good to be in school.
“There are 120 students at Kuleu Lights, but since I arrived the number of children in school keeps increasing.”
For Emmanuel the future of the country is the young generation that has not known war.
“People who are grown up now are traumatised by the war, people like our fathers and older brothers. They are behaving all the time like soldiers because of what they experienced.
“I think that MAG’s work is very important for our future development. If all the mines and bombs from the war were removed, people can live in complete peace. I wish that what happened before, all the bombs, never occurs again and that the next generation can live with peace of mind.”
1 April 2010
MAG would like to thank the following donors to the Sudan programme: Spanish Agency for International Cooperation for Development (AECID); UK Department for International Development (DFID) / UKaid; Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA); Canada Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT); Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Guernsey Overseas Aid Commission; Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, US Department of State; Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, US Department of State; United Nations.