The former minister for African Affairs led a delegation of UK MPs who toured Juba Technical High School, the only vocational school in South Sudan, recently built by Plan. The school provides marginalized communities, especially young people and former child soldiers, with vocational and technical skills.
“This school is highly innovative. It provides the young people in Southern Sudan with the skills they require to play a part in the new South Sudan,” Baroness Kinnock said.
Some of the graduates from the schools, especially girls, have been employed in the country’s fledgling hospitality industry and in the public sector. Plan International's Director for Southern Sudan, Fikru Abebe, said the training provides some of the much needed skills in the country whose economy and infrastructure was battered by more than two decades of civil war.
"We scanned the markets and asked employers what they needed. We also knew there would be a pool of young people and former child soldiers in need of sustainable livelihood choices rather than post wartime survival options. So we put the two needs together," he said.
"Although there are many challenges to the development of technical and vocational education in Southern Sudan, there are also many hopes and opportunities for improvement and growth. The issue of vocational education is a serious priority for development because it plays an important role in securing peace and sustainable recovery in a country ravaged by civil war."
Over the past five years Plan has been working with the South Sudan government to rebuild the country after years of civil war that killed 2 million people and displaced 4 million. Discussions are underway with the government to replicate the success of the initiative in other parts of the country and to upgrade the school into a national polytechnic institute.
Speaking in Juba in her role as the chair of the UK Parliamentary group on Sudan, Baroness Kinnock said that the Government of Southern Sudan should involve women and children as it moves to deal with a plethora of challenges that Africa’s newest state faces.
“The expectations of Southern Sudanese are very high. There is a peace dividend that people want. I met with women in the streets of Juba – some of them suffered terrible violence, deprivation and misery during the war - all they want now is to see peace holding, they want food on their tables, they want medicines for their children and they also want their children to go to school,” Baroness Kinnock said.
“Women and children in Southern Sudan want stability, security and peace. They want to be involved and I think they have a big contribution to make in the growth and development of Africa’s 54th state.”
She also said there was need for more primary, secondary, vocational and technical schools as well as hospitals to cope with a huge influx of returnees from the North. Up to 1.5 million returnees are expected from North Sudan in the next few months as the country prepares for independence in July.
“There are huge challenges that the Government of Southern Sudan faces. I met with top government officials including President Salva Kirr and there is an acceptance that there is a big mountain to be climbed and they believe this can be done with strong commitment,” she said.