A school bell rings out in Malakal.
It is the first time since 2013 that this particular bell, which signals the start of the South Sudan school certificate exams, has been heard here.
So momentous is this occasion that one student, Lilian Martin Nyilek, has made a gruelling three-day riverine trip from Sudan to sit for the examination.
I came by boat because I want to get my South Sudanese certificate. I arrived a bit late but I thank God I managed to sit for the English paper which was good, she says.
Being a student in Malakal and its surroundings has been rather challenging over the last handful of years. Education services suffered a complete shutdown following the conflict that started in 2013, but are now gradually improving. The second largest city in South Sudan now has at least three operational secondary schools.
Local education minister Peter Koul Chol expressed his excitement as he launched the examination.
It is a wonderful opportunity to be here in the Vision Academy School to ring the bell and to have this opportunity for our children to sit for the exam, he said, adding that this may contribute towards the return and reintegration of displaced persons in the region.
The area now has two examination centres, Malakal and Akoka, where a total of fifty-six students including four girls are taking their tests. Five of the perspiring candidates are currently staying at the protection site for displaced people at the Malakal Field Office of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.
John Juma David, a student who last year won a nationwide UNMISS essay competition, is one of these youngsters, and optimistic he is.
The first paper was okay. It’s just like our other examinations so I hope the rest will also be okay. I’m hopeful because with education nothing is impossible, John says confidently.
Source: UN Mission in South Sudan