Stop the War on Children: Dividend of Silencing the Guns

Speech of Hon. Deng Yai, Minister of General Education and Instruction, Republic of South Sudan, at the 33rd Session of the African Union High-Level Side Event on Children Affected by Armed Conflicts in Africa, Lalibela Ballroom, Sheraton Hotel, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Monday 10th February 2020 Theme: Stop the War on Children: Dividend of Silencing the Guns

Your Excellencies, the Heads of State and Government,
Your Excellency, Prof. Sarah Anyang Agbor, the AU Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technolongy,
Your Excellency, Madam Virginia Gamba, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict,
My colleagues, the Honourable Ministers,
Your Excellency, Steve Miller, CEO, Save the Children, South Africa,
Your Excellencies, the Ambassadors and Heads of Diplomatic Missions,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great honour and a rare privilege to be with you today and I am delighted to speak at this high-level meeting. The theme of this meeting is relevant to Africa and my country, South Sudan, and close to my heart. Africa had a lion’s share of the recent conflicts of the world. Our situation very often reminds you of the words of Hamlet in William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet:

“To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing, end them. To die, to sleep—”
For the children of Africa to continue “to be” and for Africa to rise, we must end the wars in the continent and silence the guns; we must consolidate peace and security; we must invest in our children and youth, who are our future; we must strengthen political and social integration; we must promote socio-economic development; and we must achieve prosperity for all. It is imperative that we take these bold actions.

The Republic of South Sudan, like other countries, has witnessed too many wars and inexplicable suffering for far too long. Therefore, my country recognises the importance of silencing the guns. For this reason, our President, H.E. Salva Kiir Mayardit, is committed and determined to promote peace and security in the Republic of South Sudan. In September 2018, our President signed the peace agreement here in Addis Ababa and effectively committing our country to protect all children from violence and effects of war. This was a massive achievement; thanks to the IGAD leaders for their leadership and support. Since then, my Ministry has implemented numerous policies to provide equitable access to quality educational opportunities for all children including those children in opposition controlled territories. Our children are not a party to the conflict and their right to education cannot wait. Education cannot Wait because education is a basic human right. Education cannot wait because Education is an enabler. In the words of President Nelson Mandela “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Government is using education to change the lives of the children and youth of South Sudan and to transform our country. I’m delighted to announce that we have made some significant progress – thanks to the Agreement and the enabling environment it created. We have increased enrollment in our schools to 3.5 – 4 Million learners in 2019; we have transferred cash to over 300,000 girls annually to attract and retain girls in our schools since 2013 with the support of UKAID or DfID; we have increased the percentage of girls in our schools to 46.5% in 3,000 schools where we took daily attendance using School Attendance Monittoring System (SAMS) in 2019; we have launched an National Action Plan for Ending Child Marriage; we have convene a Conference to convince Chiefs and other traditional leaders to prevent child marriage in their communities; we have established School Peace and Human Rights Clubs to promote the culture of peace and the culture of respect for human rights; we have developed a new National Curriculum and over 120 new textbooks and teacher guides based on our new National Curiculum; we have printed and distributed 1.9 Million copies of these new learning resources; we have trained over 30,000 teachers to teach to the new National Curriculum; and we have started implementing the new National Curriculum effective from Monday 3rd February 2020.
In addition, the government of the Republic of South Sudan is also implementing reforms to provide access to education for over 2.2 million out-of-school children. I take this opportunity to thank the Global Partnership for Education, the African Development Bank, and Education Cannot Wait for funding interventions to support the educational needs of out-of-school children and ensure No Child is Left Behind. We will continue to work in partnership with our donors, our development partners and local actors to include these children in our education system.

Your Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I recognise and applaud the role of the African Union in resolving conflicts in Africa. In particular, I want to thank and congratulate the AU and IGAD for bringing peace back to my country, South Sudan. Through collaboration with the UN and AU mechanisms, South Sudan has developed clear plans on demobilisation and reintegration of former child soldiers and providing education for all. My ministry has also coordinated the roll-out of the Safe Schools Declaration to which South Sudan is a signatory.

The roll-out amongst law enforcements, civil society and line ministries is a giant step in the right direction. It aims to galvanise support, mobilise collective actions and create awareness that schools and all learning facilities must be spared in times of conflict. These policies, initiatives and plans demonstrate our unwavering commitment to protecting children in conflict in South Sudan and to securing their rights to education, protection and development.

Finally, I am delighted to announce that the Republic of South Sudan signed this Action Plan with the United Nations in Juba on Friday 7th February 2020. This Action Plan demonstrates our solid commitment and iron determination to protect our children. We must double our efforts to stop the wars in Africa because every war affects children and, in essence, is a war on children. We must stop the wars in Africa to enable Africa to rise. We can create the Africa We Want; we can transform Africa to become a peaceful, integrated and prosperous Africa, the Continent of the future! Let us do our best and pray that God will do the rest!
Thank you very much.