10-24-2016  11:23 am      •     
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JUBA, Sudan (AP) -- Nasurdin Ibrahim was born in a camp for people who fled their homes during Sudan's civil war and still attends an overcrowded school there, but despite the lack of pens and books, the 12-year-old has a big dream. "I want to be president," he said.
The Ephphatha Primary School in the camp near Juba, the southern region's capital, is a group of dark, dank rooms with too few teachers and no money. The office of headmaster Simaya Duku is in a grass hut on the side of an open courtyard.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who visited Juba on Tuesday to put the spotlight on implementing the fragile two-year peace deal that ended Africa's longest war, did not make it to the school.
If Ban had come, Nasurdin said, he would have told him, "Thank you so much for the peace."
Nasurdin's father was a soldier, and he said when he was younger "there was a lot of fighting and killing -- but now it's not happening."
The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA, that ended 21 years of civil war between Sudan's Muslim government in the north and the Christian and animist rebels in the south has improved life. But there is widespread frustration that almost no roads are still paved and health care and education are minimal.
Edward Legge, director-general of education for Central Equatoria State, said the policy of the government of South Sudan that now runs the semiautonomous region "is that every child of school age ought to go to school."
"Do we have the schools? Do we have the money?" he asked. "The answer is no."
Legge lamented that four counties have not had money to pay their teachers for four months -- and teachers in two other counties have not gotten salaries for two months.
According to the government of South Sudan, less than 25 percent of the 2.2 million school-age children are enrolled in schools, and there are three times more boys than girls in schools -- though school enrollment has increased since the war.
The U.N. World Food Program, which provides a simple lunch for the 931 students at Ephphatha Primary School, said it plans to triple the number of children assisted to 450,000, compared to 152,000 children reached last year.
Legge thanked the U.N. Children's Fund for its help during and after the war, but he said South Sudan needs "big support" to hire more teachers and reduce class sizes which sometimes reach 100, to renovate and build schools, and to try to get more girls to class.
Legge said another problem is that the government wants refugees returning after the war to return to their homes -- but many do not want to go because there are no schools, and no money to build them.
Duku, the headmaster, said what he would like most for the school is a computer.
At Ephphatha, where about half the students are girls, 12-year-old Betty Dwo, who moved to Juba last year from the countryside to live with an aunt, shyly said she had a dream, too.
"I want to be a doctor so I can treat people who are sick," she said.
Nasurdin said if he became president, he would control reckless driving, support AIDS prevention and end the four-year conflict in western Darfur quickly, as well as other conflicts.
"I want the whole country to be one," he said.
The U.N. secretary-general was also promoting peace.
The north-south peace agreement "remains an essential -- and fragile -- cornerstone of peace across the whole of Sudan, well beyond Darfur," Ban said in Juba on the second day of his trip to Sudan that will also take him to Chad and Libya.
He heads to Darfur on Wednesday for a firsthand glimpse of the region and to press again for new peace talks and the speedy deployment of a 26,000-strong African Union-U.N. force.

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