“Education gives you the knowledge and skills to unlock your potential as positive change-makers in your country” said the Director-General during a visit to the Protection of Civilians site (POC) in Juba, which hosts thousands of internally displaced South Sudanese. “Bringing about peace in South Sudan is a shared responsibility and education is a powerful tool in your hands to build your own future and that of your country”, she added.
Together with Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflicts and Forest Whitaker UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation, Irina Bokova visited the Juba POC site, where learning spaces allow children and youth to pursue education in a safe environment.
The joint visit served to advocate the importance of education as a major building block for peace. They saw how life skills materials developed by UNESCO help teachers cope with the psycho-social distress affecting children and youth.
The visit also provided the opportunity for interaction with young people to listen to their aspirations and concrete efforts as youth peacemakers in their community. “We are here to support you, to empower you, to help you find the strength to overcome conflict, to engage in dialogue and to become actors of lasting peace”, said Forest Whitaker.
In partnership with UNESCO, the Forest Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative provides educational and recreational opportunities to empower youth as future peacemakers building on education, culture and sports as vectors of peace.
Leila Zerrougui strongly emphazised the importance of protecting children and youth as learners and not soldiers, as well as keeping violence out of schools.
“Education upholds dignity. Children and youth should hold pens and not guns”, insisted Irina Bokova.