I will always remember that night in December 2013. My family had had dinner and spent some time discussing the events of the day before heading to bed. About 30 minutes later, I heard gunshots. I thought they were the usual gunshots that I often heard in Juba but these continued throughout the night. At some point, my father gathered us in one room and asked us to sleep on the floor for our safety. It was a very long night; I longed for daybreak hoping the gunshots would stop, but they didn’t. In the morning nothing had changed. My father received a call from my uncle who told him that there was fighting and that people of my tribe were being targeted.
I had never seen my father look more devastated than that morning when he gathered the family and told us that we needed to seek shelter inside the United Nations’ compound (UNMISS). He warned us that we might not make it to the camp but said we should stay strong and hope for the best.
With heavy hearts, we left our home and all our belongings and set off for UNMISS in my father’s car. On our way I saw several dead bodies by the roadside and people being arrested by men in military uniforms. Our car was stopped several times by soldiers but we were let go because my father could speak their language. When we reached the UN compound my father told us to go inside and wait for him while he went to buy some food. He promised to join us immediately, but that was the last time we saw him. We heard rumours that he was killed a few metres from the gate of our safe haven.
I had to leave my family again to go to school in Uganda. I studied in Uganda until July 2016 when fighting broke out again in South Sudan. I heard about the shootings and the heavy artillery including gunships in Juba. I could not sleep or concentrate in school because I was very worried about my family. I had to come back and be with them. I felt it was better for me to be with them than to worry all the time. I dropped out of school and returned to Juba. Since then I have been studying at a UNICEF-supported school in the PoC. I am now in class seven and hope to complete my primary education next year.
I have lost so much time out of school. I have lost my father, friends, neighbours and even my home, which was destroyed. But what is important is that I am in school. Education will help me become a better person; I want to be a mechanical engineer when I grow up. My future may seem bleak for now, but with education and hopefully peace in my country, a better day will come for me, for my family and for the people of my country.
The conflict in South Sudan continues to devastate lives of children through mass displacement, destruction of schools and interruption of education. Since the onset of the conflict in 2013, close to two million children have been forced out of school and one out of three schools in conflict-affected areas have been destroyed, closed, or are being used by the military.
Tamam Jany is a 15 year old boy living at the UN Protection of Civilians site in Juba. He spoke with UNICEF Communication Specialist, Mercy Kolok