At a school in Juba, hundreds of pupils gather together, curiously listening and mimicking the actions of Nepalese military medics, as they demonstrate proper hand-washing and hygiene techniques.
Moses, a young boy attending the school, is among the curious listeners, and the techniques seem to have quickly struck a chord with him.
“When you come in the toilet, you get many diseases. When you want to eat, you wash your hands. When you come from toilet, you wash your hands to be clean, so no diseases come,” he says, describing what he had learned.
It was an important lesson for Moses on an important day for his school, Queens Nursery and Primary School, when peacekeepers from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan went to support it this week, to contribute to its continued development and growth.
Located in Nakitun village, just outside the UNMISS base in Juba, the school rose from the ashes of the July 2016 crisis and reopened just last February with only 50 pupils in attendance.
Now several hundreds of pupils are enrolled, bringing a beacon of hope to the community. Yet, the pupils need protection, not only from harm originating from conflict, but also from disease causing pathogens.
On Wednesday, peacekeepers paid the school a special visit as part of their commitment to the learners and the community, with proper hygiene as one of the things to impart to their protégés.
The peacekeepers are mindful of one fact: The people of South Sudan are at a high risk for communicable diseases due to overcrowding and poor water, sanitation, and hygiene conditions. Proper hand-washing techniques and hygiene promotion can remove pathogens, reduce disease risk, and literally save lives.
Salina, a teacher at Queens Nursery and Primary School, emphasized how education can boost proper hygiene amongst pupils.
“It will even encourage them to know and learn how they can manage to maintain their bodies,” she said.
The peacekeepers engagement with the local school, led by the office of the UNMISS Deputy Force Commander, is part of the mission’s civil-military cooperation program to interact with the people of South Sudan on a local level.
“We want to go closer to the people and we want to help with something, like this orphanage. We are here to support them,” Lt Col Ujjal Thapa, Commander of the Nepalese Siddhibox Battalion, explained.
Following the hand-washing demonstration and hygiene awareness activity, the peacekeepers presented learners with new backpacks, scholastic materials, and sporting items to bolster their education.
As a final treat, children, teachers, and parents were invited for a tasty chicken curry lunch which they gobbled up with delight.
UNMISS staff members also donated uniforms to 250 pupils last July and the peacekeeping mission will continue to support the school, as a part of helping to build a durable peace in the country through education.