An Open Letter to Hon. Awut Deng Acuil, Minister of General Education & Instructions

The ostensibly unfair phased-reopening of lower institutions of learning in the Country.

By: Bol Deng Bol,

Dear Honorable Awut Deng,

South Sudan Minister of Gender, Child and Social Welfare Awut Deng, left,  shakes hand with President Kiir, right,  at the State House in Juba on Thursday, December 20th 2018 (Nyamilepedia)

South Sudan Minister of Gender, Child and Social Welfare Awut Deng, left, shakes hand with President Kiir, right, at the State House in Juba on Thursday, December 20th 2018 (Photo credit: supplied/Nyamilepedia)

Oct 6, 2020(Nyamilepedia) — Because the national Council of Ministers (CoM) in their regular sitting on the 11th of September, 2020 unanimously resolved to allow reopening of lower and higher institutions of learning in the Country in which the Ministry of Higher Education and Ministry of General Education & Instructions were further tasked to figure out the questions of how and when the resolution will be effected, in pursuance of this resolution, your Ministry slated and officially announced “a phased reopening of schools” countrywide on the 5th of October, 2020. This tells of how much responsibility your Ministry shoulders in this government pursuit. And in fact, nothing is extraordinary or arduous about it, since the regional governments have already headed towards the same direction. South Sudan can instead learn from the rest who’ve though our situation is quite different, given the factor of fast devastating flash floods.

Hon. Minister,

While this effort is a welcomed one, especially by the “hungry Teachers” in Jonglei State and beyond, your Ministry has unfortunately successfully exacerbated the omissions made by the Council of Ministers in their deliberations; when they consciously ignored the factor of overwhelming floods in Jonglei State, GPAA, Lake State, Unity State among others that are adversely affected by this disaster and instead, considered only the prevalence of Corona Virus. This resolution in the first place, was an unfortunate decision by the Government, simply because the Country is in difficult times imposed by mainly two known factors; Covid-19; and the flooding. So, considering one factor in our daily decisions and leaving out the other, won’t ease our conditions as a Country.

Your Ministry has unfortunately fallen in the trenches of CoM. Ask me how?

Honorable Minister,

You’ve lead your Ministry through each word and directives of the CoM without questions, bit by bit to the end of the tunnel. You likewise directed the secondary and primary schools in the Country to reopen on the 5th of October, irrespective of whether the school structures are inundated or occupied by flood displaced people in some parts of the same Country. You very well know that Jonglei State in particular, tops the list of the most affected states in the country and if there was ever a competition, Jonglei would have won an award of the Most Flood Ravaged State (MFRS) in the country and hold it firmly like our President proudly did on the 3rd of the month. Currently, Jonglei alone, has over 40,000 people displaced by the disaster. These people have resettled in schools, churches, fields and other public places. Imagine if all these public places had forced them out in response to your directives, where would these people have gone? – Even as I write this letter, the occupants of Malek Primary School are being asked to leave the school buildings to make way for classes, yet it’s still raining. This is just one out of many such cases which your directives have inspired. Congratulations Mama Awut Deng Acuil!

Mangalla IDP camp:

Dear Minister, for your benefit, in just a few days after Mangalla’s declaration on 23rd/9/2020 as an IDP camp by the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs & Disaster Management, three ambushes were reported between Mangalla and Juba (25th, 28th & 29th of September), wherein an underage girl was kidnapped in one of the ambushed vehicles and killed in the bushes, just close to Juba city. This camp has gotten risky all over the sudden. The vulnerable people were invited and left unprotected by the same government leaving them susceptible to any life threatening menace. A couple of questions have continue to linger in my mind; like why did the government call the feeble displaced folks to take refuge there and later turn her back against them? If Protection of people and their properties is government’s obligation and also the primary mandate of UNMISS, why is it being neglected by all? I am thus, afraid that the IDPs may soon resort to self-defense mechanisms, a case in which yet another undesirable phenomenon may be invented. Honorable, the same scenario is being faced by the IDPs wherever they have sought sanctuary, including in the public places in Jonglei State where higher grounds are deemed insecure, that’s why many have opted to travel to Lakes state, Mangalla or stay in open places within Bor County.

Honorable Minister, consider incorporating these suggestions into your “phased reopening of schools” if it must proceed at all costs.

1) In your Ministry’s public statement, the 75,000 and 35,000 registered students will revolve around a six days’ new learning time table (from Monday through Saturday). Dear honorable, good as your intentions are, I would beg to disagree with this arrangement for one reason; it out-rightly infringes on the Rights guaranteed by the country’s Constitution. That is the Religious Rights. It undermines the rights to observe days of rest, rights to celebrate holidays, rights to ceremonies in accordance with the precepts of religious beliefs as enshrined in the South Sudan’s Transitional Constitution as amended. Seventh Days Adventists (SDAs) in particular, are offended by this decision. If this must be, then, it shouldn’t be discriminatory; make a seven days secondary and primary schools’ time table and I will agree with you that indeed, our children will not be suffocated by the sevens but will pass exams with flying seven colors!

2) Aide schools to successfully reopen:

The main hindrance being the flash floods in Jonglei state in particular and Covid-19 a secondary factor (with proper adherence to it’s preventive measures, people can live with the virus since it has decided to live with the people), the government should help relocate the displaced occupants from the un-flooded schools’ buildings. Also, schools that are taken over by the floods should be provided with tents and other shelters to enable their students take lessons under trees. The concept here is, the government, through your honorable office should help schools help their students study, in so doing, the government would have helped the stranded people resettle properly.

Education is a basic Human Right. It should not be denied whatsoever or should any human be coerced into it under undesirable circumstances.

Thank you for your time dear Honorable Minister.

The author can be reached for more information through his email at boldeng2013@gmail.com. 


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