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From the Executive Director: Teaching peace in war-ravaged Sudan

October 28, 2010

I just returned from an eight-day trip to Southern Sudan.

The goal of the visit was to work with faculty at the University of Juba in Juba to put together a training workshop for teachers, a project that has been a three-year partnership between IRIS, Iowa State University and the University of Juba in South Sudan.

The focus of this training is to help secondary school teachers learn how to incorporate peace education concepts into their current teaching methods.

Due to 20+ years of conflict in Sudan, an entire generation has gone without a permanent secondary school infrastructure. Those residents, who did not receive education in refugee camps, may have never seen the inside of a classroom. New schools and new educational curriculum have since been developed in the South, and this provides a tremendous opportunity to incorporate the development of skills needed for these young people to live in a peaceful society.

The Team

Sudanese partners during their visit to Iowa. Back row: Dr. Oromo, Ms. Apaya & Mr. Ladu

We’re working with some great partners in South Sudan.

Dr. Sirisio Oromo is an associate professor at the University of Juba and works in their Centre for Peace and Development Studies. Dr. Oromo is leading the group of facilitators for this important training.

Ms. Cecilia Apaya is a lecturer in psychology at the University of Juba.

She, like many of her colleagues, lived through the horrible conflicts in Sudan over the past two decades. Her master’s dissertation was on post-traumatic stress in child soldiers and children living in war refugee camps. As she showed me her bound copy of the thesis, she apologized that some of the field data she had gathered no longer exists. I asked her why and she explained that her professor had told her that that if the wrong people found out she had documentation of possible war crimes, her life would be in jeopardy, so the transcripts of some of those conversations had to be destroyed. (And we think our graduate programs are challenging.)

The third member of the workshop-facilitation team is Mr. Loku Ladu. Loku is the quintessential high school science teacher. He loves discovery and can excite students young and old to share in that passion for science. He lectures in physics, but can educate young people in all the sciences. Students flock around him in hopes of absorbing some of the vast knowledge he possesses. Together, they will demonstrate to secondary school teachers various methods of including skills such as effective communication, active listening, conflict resolution and mediation into various academic curricula.

What an amazing team, who we hope will lead the teachers of South Sudan into a new realm of peace education!

[These three educators visited Iowa in August 2010. Read their thoughts on Sudan’s need for peace here.]

What lies ahead…

It is both an exciting and extremely nervous time in South Sudan.

A Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was brokered by outside powers in 2005 and put an end to the 21-year conflict between the Arab-Muslim North and the black-Christian South. (According to human rights groups, more than 2 million people perished during the 1983-2005 war.)

As part of that Peace Agreement, a referendum will be held on January 9, 2011, allowing the people of the South to decide whether or not to split from the North and officially declare their selves a separate country. Should the referendum pass (and it is quite likely to occur), it would split up the largest country in Africa.

As one can imagine, the tension is palpable and no one knows what will happen following the referendum.

Sudan is at a crossroads of monumental proportions. Only time will tell the results of the January referendum and whether or not a peaceful transition can occur in this tension-filled country. We hope some of the skills learned by the teachers at these training workshops will also be demonstrated by their leaders as this nation moves into the next chapter of African history.

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