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Big turnout for our trainings in Juba signals overwhelming needs in skills among South Sudanese youth

Turnout was impressive for registration at the new round of trainings we opened this month at our Community Learning Center (CLC) in Juba, the capital city of South Sudan. 300 applicants came for our 50-slot course on conflict resolution. 50 seats available for the ICT class were filled in less than three hours as 160 young people showed up for registration. 70 young people intended to register for our entrepreneurship courses.

We had established the Juba CLC with our long-time partners, UNESCO, Ericsson, IKEA Foundation, Gemini Africa and Zain, to offer to surrounding communities a space dedicated to knowledge and peace. Often depicted as marginalized victims of the ongoing civil war in South Sudan, young people refuse to give up and strive to increase their competences and enhance their employability. Seeing so many people lining up to learn is a rare sight in this conflict-affected area. This is a telling sign that, despite challenges, young people in South Sudan have an eye on the future – theirs and their country’s.

 Increasing their potential as economic and civic actors is precisely the end goal of our CLCs. We operate them in South Sudan and Uganda, in places where conflict and armed violence have left communities vulnerable and deprived of access to knowledge and information. We believe that knowledge and information are tremendous assets in fragile communities, raising the capacity of young women and men to create economic opportunities for themselves, connect with others in their communities and around the world, and participate in the life of the community as active global citizens.

All year long, our centers, propose courses in conflict resolution, entrepreneurship, ICT and arts and crafts as well as library services and computers. Our network of Community Learning Centers established in South Sudan and Uganda is so far proving to be incredibly popular — each center is routinely visited by over 200 people every month. In Juba, we are also partnering with surrounding schools and orphanages to benefit from our ICT trainings.

But there is more to our centers than these specific services in the view of our CEO/Founder artist and humanist Forest Whitaker who is UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation as well as UN Advocate for the Sustainable Development Goals. They are also vibrant hubs of community life where individuals can gather to participate in a wide range of civic activities. They hosts cultural and sports events that contribute to disseminating a culture of peace and strengthening the citizens’ aspiration to resilience and stability. This is the deeper aspiration expressed by these young people as they came to us, eager to learn and prepare themselves for life and work in the world of today and tomorrow. We know what our centers mean to them and will spare no effort to meet their desires for jobs and peace.