South Sudan: Education and displacement in the world’s newest nation
South Sudan risks long-term stability and development as children lack the safety, structure, and stimulation of a learning environment.
A displaced community seeks shelter on the outskirts of Juba. Among other challenges, the collapse of oil prices and hyperinflation have made access to facilities and the cost of transport impossible for many South Sudanese struggling to survive.
Maria, 16, originally from Bor state attends a school for internally displaced children on the outskirts of Juba. Maria came to Juba in 2015 because of fighting in the North. Her dream is to study and become a doctor.
In 2011, South Sudan gained independence from Sudan after decades of conflict and ended Africa’s longest running civil war. Aid money came pouring in and the international community had high hopes for South Sudan, the world’s newest country.
Yet just two years after independence, President Salva Kiir accused former Vice President Riek Machar of waging a coup and the country plunged into a civil war divided along ethnic lines. Soldiers loyal to President Kiir, a Dinka, and rebel forces aligned with former Vice President Riek Machar, a Nuer, have both been accused of widespread human rights violations and abuses. Despite the signing of a Peace Accord in August 2015, fighting has continued throughout the country.
Jane and her two children live in a community for internally displaced people on the outskirts of Juba. Jane is currently pregnant, her husband abandoned her and she plans to give birth at home as she cannot afford the transport fees to reach a medical facility. This is a common story among women in South Sudan, a country with the world’s highest maternal mortality rate in the world.
Cattle graze in the Terekeka region of Central Equatoria state. Cattle are central to the culture and economy of South Sudan, often providing the main source of nutrition, representing the wealth of a family, and used as dowry for brides. Since the civil war, traditional migration routes have been affected and cattle raids and tribal conflicts have intensified.
Children learn in a classroom in the United Nations Protection of Civilian site in Juba, South Sudan. It is estimated that 28,000 people of the ethnic Nuer tribe, mostly coming from Northern states of South Sudan have sought refuge in the POC site. Displaced children face many hurdles to learning including malnutrition and poverty, overcrowding of classrooms, and lack of trained/paid teachers.
Gladis, a caregiver at an orphanage in Juba, makes handicrafts to sell at the local market as she looks after a mentally challenged boy. Since the conflict began in 2013, it is estimated that there are over 10,000 separated, unaccompanied, and missing children. Humanitarian groups estimate that more than 1 million children are in psychosocial distress and face long-term consequences as they lack the stability and structure for healthy development.
Adults aged 40 and under attend a workshop at the United Nations Protection of Civilian site in Juba, South Sudan. The United Nations estimates that nearly 200,000 people are registered in Protection of Civilians sites across the country and many more are unregistered. Education needs are said to be great within displacement sites with many susceptible to dangerous labor practices and negative coping mechanisms such as crime and substance abuse.
Paul (left), with his two wives and children, takes shelter in a community for internally displaced people of Dinka ethnicity on the outskirts of Juba.
The United Nations estimates that 2.3 million people have been displaced since December 2013, that’s one in every five people. Nearly 1.7 million people have been displaced internally within South Sudan and 47 percent of those displaced are school-aged children. An entire generation is at risk with nearly one in three schools closed, destroyed or occupied; hunger and malnutrition are rampant; and the economic crisis has deepened with inflation reaching an all-time high in 2016. South Sudan risks long-term stability and development as children lack the safety, structure, and stimulation of a learning environment.
The human faces are difficult to comprehend behind the numbers and statistics. It’s simple to dismiss the civil war and its consequences as just another hopeless African tragedy. Yet displacement has a look, a feeling, a smell. There is a human face to living on the edge. There is humanity.
Children attend a workshop hosted by Clowns Without Borders in the United Nations Protection of Civilian site in Juba, South Sudan.
Children play at a shelter for vulnerable/abandoned children in Juba.
Sara Hylton is a Canadian documentary photographer based between Brooklyn, New York and New Delhi, India. Sara’s principal medium is the portrait. She believes that through this documentation she is able to share an exchange with her varied subjects and capture them in their most natural state of being. Resilience, humanity, and the quiet beauty in everyday life guides her work.
Sara completed a post-graduate certificate in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography from the International Center of Photography and also holds a Master of Arts in International Conflict Studies from Kings College London. Sara reported in South Sudan with the support of the International Women’s Media Foundation.