By LWI correspondent Fredrick Nzwili
PANYAGOR, Southern Sudan/GENEVA, 1 February 2011 (LWI)
Although 14 year-old Adut Anyar would like to spend more time in school, she is usually at Kiir cattle camp ensuring her siblings who are taking care of the animals have something to eat.”I came here with my brother. My parents told me to come here. I cannot refuse because they will be annoyed with me. I like school, but many times I miss classes,” said the primary three pupil.
The camps are huge grazing grounds teeming with cattle. As they herd their animals young men and some women occasionally break into praise songs about their favorite bulls. In the process one does not fail to notice the many school-age children who are part of the community lifestyle.
Like several other children at the cattle camps, Anyar views education as valuable, but acknowledges the many challenges that prevent her from attending school.
Camp life is difficult, she says, because safe water is not easily available.
“People sleep in the open, and often get sick. When it rains, it becomes even more difficult,” said the young girl, who hopes one day she can become a doctor.At 17, Wach Kuol Akur is in class six at the nearby Wernyol public primary school. Although he comes to the camp with his parents, he fears he will miss school, when the cows start moving.
“I attend school all the time, but soon we will be moving. I can’t stay back because my parents will ask me to go with them,” he says.
Many of the children say they follow their parents to the camps because they are assured of food, including milk and meat, unlike if they were left alone at home.
George Taban, the education officer at the LWF/DWS Panyagor office expressed concern that many of the children joining the cattle camps may end up missing out on education completely.
“When they stay at the camps, they many never show great interest in school because they are made to believe camp life is good,” said Taban. Through its education project in Jonglei, DWS has been working with schools heads, school management committees and parents-teachers’ associations to sensitize parents so that they can release children from the camps to school.
Establishing temporary schools in the camps could be a solution.
“Although not all of them will learn, the few who accept to be taught will represent a step forward,” says John Mabior, DWS acting program manager.Akoy Ajak, the Kiir cattle camp head has assured the LWF staff he would accept a temporary school at his camp.
“I will let the children learn,” he says. “If there were enough boreholes near our homes, we will also stop moving to the Nile,” he adds. (468 words)