If school backpacks can transmit as much knowledge to their owners as they seem able to hold to their owners, the 252 girls and boys at Queen’s Nursery and Primary School next to UN House in Juba, some only marginally bigger than their bags, have a bright future.
To promote girl power and progress on the International Day of the Girl Child, female police officers serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan visited the school and offered a variety of inspirational activities and revelations.
“Believe it or not, but I was once a small girl just like you! If you look around you, the other uniformed women here have also been children, dreaming of becoming adults. Now we have grown up and become what we wanted to be, by studying hard and following our dreams,” the peacekeeping mission’s Police Commissioner Unaisi Lutu Vuniwaqa confided –even before reaching her main message:
“All of you can become whatever you decide that you want to be. Your future is in your hands, just work hard to make the most of your education,” she added, and stressed that boys and men have an important role to play in supporting and allowing girls to flourish and reach their full potential.
A show of hands, prompted by the Police Commissioner, demonstrated that South Sudanese schools and law enforcement agencies won’t suffer from a lack of future candidates as the pupils of Queen’s School become fully fledged adults.
These preliminary findings were quickly confirmed by 14-year-old Lili John and one year younger Stella Gibson.
“Today is important because going to school gives us knowledge, and I want to become a teacher,” Lili said, still a bit unsure about what subject she would like to teach.
Truck drivers in the country are unlikely to be able to welcome Stella to their fold, but may still get to know her in another capacity.
“A police officer, that’s what I want to be. A strong one,” she added for clarification.
Patience is a necessary virtue for anyone nurturing learning children or putting criminal individuals back on the straight and narrow path of a righteous life. The same will be true for those wishing the mango tree sapling planted on Thursday’s occasion to grow fast to provide the school site with much-needed shade as quickly as possible.
The little fellow, unless it was a girl to mark the day, maybe 20 centimeters tall, was at least given a cheerful start to life, with students, teachers, community leaders and UN police officers willing it on by dancing and singing the infectious and quite possibly recently composed tune “Shake, shake, the mango tree, one for you and one for me.”
Stoical, discerning mango lovers may, however, one day be in luck and see their shares of the spoils grow significantly. Chances are that the little newcomer may soon be accompanied by another 45 tree saplings recently donated to the school by the UN Mission’s environmental engineers. That gift was part of the Carbon Sink Joint Project between UNMISS and the government of South Sudan.