Building sustainable peace through interactive processes among school children: a case of Juba Metropolitan City of South Sudan
Deng, Dut Samuel
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Since its eruption in 2013, most scholars’ and non-governmental organizations’ work on the South Sudan conflict have focused on children’s humanitarian situation, with little or nothing done on the perspective of children in peacebuilding. Considering the fact that children are unbiased in their interactions with members of the wider communities concerning divisions, hatred, and other elements of sectarian and tribal ideology, this study looked at building sustainable peace through interactive processes among school children in Juba Metropolitan City of South Sudan, where the current conflict violently broke out twice in 2013 and 2016 respectively. The main objective of this study was to analyze the interactive processes among children in schools located within Juba. The specific objectives were to establish children’s perceptions of Peace and Peacebuilding; to identify the kinds of interactive processes that occurred among school Children within Juba schools and lastly, to determine the extent to which interactive processes among school children fostered sustainable peace. The study was qualitative in overall approach and used interviews, focus group discussions, and observation guides as data collection instruments. A total of 173 respondents which included 153 children from nine selected schools and 20 informants comprised of teachers and head teachers, local leaders, and parents participated in the study. Interestingly, findings indicate that school children are not tribal. Eighty-seven (87%) percent of the interviewed children were found to have their best friends from tribes other than their own. In general, the study found that Juba school children perceive peace and peacebuilding in three contexts; school, socially, and nationally. Children perceive peace and peacebuilding as the absence of war/fighting, tribalism, and corruption. Children perceive peace as freedom, unity, signed agreements, and respect for teachers. Children also perceive peace and peacebuilding as social activities within their interaction ecologies. The study, therefore, concludes that school children have the potential to build lasting peace in South Sudan, and therefore recommends that the schools in Juba Metropolitan City be utilized for peacebuilding by establishing peace programs in schools, funding those programs, training teachers in peacebuilding basics to shape children for peace and lastly, to set up programs that encourage children’s interactions in the Metropolitan City of Juba and in other parts of the country.