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Returning to become a nurse; the dream of a southern Sudanese returnee girl.
In a makeshift grass thatched structure in Gudele, an upcoming sprawling residential area in the neighbourhood of Juba City, lives 19-year old Woro with her parents and five other siblings. They recently returned from Khartoum and are struggling to settle.
Nearly 14 years ago, Woro’s family fled their home near Juba at the height of Sudan’s two-decade war which only ended in 2005.
“I remember my elder brothers stopped going to school or to visit their friends”, Woro said.
Samuel, Woro’s father, says it was difficult to continue to live in Juba as access was restricted and food and other basic commodities were fast running out of stock.
So Woro and her family left for Khartoum onboard a cargo plane. “When we landed we didn’t know where to go”, Samuel said with nostalgia.
The family took time to settle in Khartoum and hence Woro and her siblings couldn’t immediately start school.
She lost more than five years of her schooling as the family struggled to survive in displacement.
At the age of 12, Woro finally enrolled in primary grade one in Khartoum and studied in Arabic. In 2010 she attended primary seven and is due to complete her primary school in 2011 at the age of 20.
Driven by a desire to vote in his home area in the forthcoming referendum and with Southerners returning en masse, Samuel and his entire family of six braved the three-week torturous journey, thousands of miles by barge along the River Nile to Southern Sudan.
Woro now says she is looking forward to continuing her education when the academic year starts in Southern Sudan in April.
“I can’t afford another interruption, age is against me”, Woro said. She is anxious to continue her school despite the challenge of struggling to help her family settle again in Southern Sudan.
“It feels like another displacement, more or less the same way when we arrived in Khartoum after we fled from the South only that this time it’s peaceful here and we have some savings which we will depend on for the next few weeks”, she added.
Despite that, Woro says she wants to ‘quickly’ complete her studies, become a nurse and help provide quality health care to the children of Southern Sudan.
“This dream keeps me awake and focused on my school”, Woro said.
Woro’s determination represents that of many young people whose families are returning home from northern Sudan where they had lived in internal displacement for close to two decades.
“The realization of aspirations and dreams of the children and young people of southern Sudan such as Woro is crucial for nation-building”, said Dr, Yasmin Haque, Director for UNICEF Southern Sudan Area Programme.
“There is no priority greater that of enabling the current generation of children to realise their full potential, to make the best of their talents and skills to put an end to the poverty and suffering that has been the reality for too long in Southern Sudan.”, Dr. Haque further added.
Since the end of the war five years ago, UNICEF has supported the Government of Southern Sudan to launch a ‘Go To School’ campaign by providing student and teacher materials, as well as assisting with school construction, curriculum development and teacher training.
So far, primary school enrollment has reached a record 1.6 million children and is set to increase in 2011.
An alternative education programme has also been introduced for older children where they spend four years to complete primary school instead of eight.