Building peace in the minds of men and women

UNESCO investing in literacy teachers in South Sudan

“Literacy is the building block for a more just and peaceful society – where girls and young women have the capacities to shape their lives, to speak out and be heard”.

The Director-General delivered this key message in the graduation ceremony of more than 200 teachers, who completed a two-week intensive training, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. The ceremony was held in the city of Yei in the Eastern Equatorial Province.

South Sudan has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world and therefore the training of literacy teachers is the most critical issue that needs to be addressed.

 “Teachers are the key to quality education –- each of you is essential” said Irina Bokova. She pointed that even as we call them teachers, they are actually sharers, since “You share knowledge and skills, you share ideas and values, you share a vision of society and a future of peace and reconciliation, a future of prosperity and hope”.

Literacy and teachers are two of UNESCO’s top priorities in South Sudan. Teacher training is a first step in increasing access of girls and women to quality literacy and life skills.

The huge challenge of providing quality learning opportunities needs partners. During the ceremony, UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation, Forest Whitaker, highlighted the importance of incorporating peace-building skills as an integral part of curriculum in literacy classes.

“You are heroes” said Forest Whitaker, “peace is in the minds of men and women. Through education, you have the unique power of instilling values of dialogue and respect that can bring about lasting peace”.

The Director-General was also accompanied by the Minister of Education, Science and Technology of South Sudan, as well as a representative of the US Embassy in Juba, which is funding this UNESCO literacy programme.

“Achieving literacy in South Sudan is an immense challenge” said the Director-General, “we are grateful to all our partners. This exemplifies the solidarity and commitment required to overcome illiteracy”.