In the murky pre-dawn light, hundreds of teenagers emerge from their shelters within the United Nations protection site, nervously clutching their pads and pens as they prepare to sit their end of year examinations.
Sitting academic tests is a stressful experience for any student. But it is even more challenging for these South Sudanese youngsters who have been living in the camp since civil war erupted six years ago.
“In the Protection of Civilians site, there are a lot of difficult things that we face,” says student, Rebecca Chol. “The environment that we live in is not fair. For example, we do have a library but the books available are very limited.”
Rebecca is among 1250 students living in the camp who are required to sit their exams at government-approved schools in the city. This creates a huge logistical challenge for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan which has to transport them to the various schools in a long convoy of buses.
It also means the students have a long day ahead. Their journey begins at first light as the buses make their way out of the compound for the half-hour long drive to the city. They spend several hours sitting various exams before making the return journey.
Despite the challenges, the students are prepared to do whatever it takes to get the qualifications they need to find jobs or to go on to further study at university.
“I’ve been preparing for a whole year,” says student Samuel Gadet. “The exams went well but I’m excited that they are over now.”
Samuel’s family, including his four brothers and three sisters, live in a United Nations protection site in Bor, in the Jonglei region of South Sudan. He moved to the camp in Juba to stay with his brother because it is easier for him to access education. Despite their separation, his family does its best to support him.
“There are real challenges living in the protection site,” says Samuel. “But I have a way to manage them because all of my family in Bor send me something when I need school fees and the rest. So, they assist me.”
The signing of a revitalized peace agreement last year has significantly improved the security situation. More than 645,000 people living in refugee and other displacement camps have returned to their home in towns and villages across the country. Many of those remaining in the UN sites are also able to safely go to school, to work and to shop outside.
The focus for UNMISS and humanitarian agencies now is to ensure that services, including access to schools and health facilities, are available in communities so that displaced families no longer feel they have no choice but to remain in the camps to get the support they need.Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
Displaced students sit exams with support from UNMISS (By Francesca Annemarie Mold)