» South Sudan cattle herders go to school to become community trainers
05.07.2016 - Education Sector

South Sudan cattle herders go to school to become community trainers

© UNESCO - New community trainer Michael leads a class

Herders sitting down in their first ever classroom to become community trainers felt a long way from their cattle camp. It took some effort from the tutors to break the ice. The young men were shocked to see a woman heading the training; in the cattle camp, women are seen and not heard.

They quickly adjusted to a new culture that involved long hours of sitting still, no family, no friends, no cows. They moved from tales of cattle-raiding and attacks to active listening, group discussions, role plays, presentations and peer critiquing. New friendships were made to fill the place of those missing. A family of trainers began to form.

The joint UNESCO-FAO project, “Enhanced Knowledge and Education for Resilient Pastoral Livelihoods in South Sudan,” is taking place in 5 counties in the Lakes State region of South Sudan with the help of EU funding and backed by National and state ministries. It targets children, youth and adults in an area which suffers from lack of access to education opportunities  and conflict sparked by food insecurity, youth unemployment and cattle-raiding.

A distinction and a hero’s welcome

Michael, who gained a rare distinction in the training and was given a hero’s welcome back home, said: “I can remember everything I learned including the signs and symptoms of a sick animal.”

He feels his highest achievement was to learn how to develop business ideas.

“As soon as the tutor started to teach, I could see why people who try business in the cattle camp fail and all the opportunities that exist there,” Michael said.

When he returned to the camp he was given some days off from herding and may not go back to that life because he will be the camp teacher. He is already involved in homeschooling his brothers and some neighbours with the skills he acquired.

Questioning old feuds for the first time

When asked if the training has changed him in any way, Michael said: “I always hated teachers and now I want to be one. Also I had never thought that there was no reason to keep fighting and taking revenge on other clans over generations. I am able to question that behaviour now.”

He plans to help his community with animal husbandry issues and to diversify their livelihoods to other things like gardening and forming a village cooperative.

Mabut, Michael's uncle, said the project had been the greatest gift anybody could give South Sudan. Most people dismissed cattle camp people and as a result, they had to protetc their wealth with guns.

He said education would reduce senseless killings in the region because trigger-happy youth would have broader life perspectives, would be kept busy learning and have alternative ways of making money.

Now Mabut, who is illiterate, cannot wait for the teaching of adult literacy and numeracy to come to their cattle camp. He has already imagined himself enrolling and says that if UNESCO and FAO take too long, he will tell his nephew Michael to start the class.

Jasper Okodi, UNESCO Juba,  Project Coordinator said: “Most pastoralist families take the brightest children to take care of the cattle because they are a household asset so they have no access to education.”

UNESCO and FAO have partnered to promote the Pastoralist Livelihood and Education Field Schools (PLEFS) model which integrates livelihood and education to reach pastoral communities in cattle camps. The joint pilot trainers’ project is being run on a small scale with plans to extend it to other states when funds become available.

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