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Primary schools compete in sports to overcome tribalism

By James Atem Kuir

Hundreds of primary school pupils from eight selected schools participated in series of volleyball games and short distance races to create awareness about the negative impacts of biased tribal sentiments on harmonious living in the society.

The games organized by the National Agency, Action for Conflict Resolution (ACR)saw eight girls’ volleyball teams from selected primary schools playing against each other in Bentiu Protection of Civilians Site (PoC) over the weekend.

Eight athletes comprising both male and female pupil runners also competed in 400, 600 and 800 meter races.

The games were organized as part of anti-tribalism campaign in Unity State with funding from the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA).

“The overall objective of these (sporting) activities is to have these young boys and girls break barriers as they play together as teams made up of players from different backgrounds, not as players from communities x, y and z. Because sports promote tolerance, we are using these activities to pass the message of mitigating tribal attitudes and encourage peaceful co-existence,” said Peter Gatkuoth, ACR coordinator for Unity State.

Mr. Gatkuothsaid, though Unity State was largely made up of one ethnic group, many young people sometimes find themselves advocating for ownsection and hold negative opinions about the other clans.

“Unity State is diverse with different clans having their own ways of doing things and these difference ssometimes result in some intra-communal conflict mostly among youth.We are trying to advocate for peaceful co-existence among the different communities living here. The games are part of our civic engagement and anti-tribalism campaign programme,” he stated in a phone interview from Bentiu town.

Pupils get ready to take off in a 200-meter race as dozens of supporters’ cheer from behind                                                                           |photo by PeterGatkuoth|

Nyases Paruk Hassan, a volleyball player and pupil ofLiech Primary School, one of the selected eight schools that participatedin the day longcontest, said: “You can play [games]every dayso that you learn to be tolerant towards others who do not behave like you.”

“Whenyou support your team orplay together, you feel good and no one talks about clans,” she said.

Daniel Nhial, a school teacher, said apart from enhancing learning, games and sports help learners mitigate harmful tribal mindsetsand find common interests as they interact through competition.

“Sometimes you find learners quarrelling aboutsomething to do with difference between clans and so as teacher you make them understand that ‘where you come from does not make better than others.’ And through sports, they learn to respect one another and appreciate team work,” he said.

Christine William, a school teacher and volleyball trainer at Liech Primary School, thehostof the weekend sporting activities, said leaners overcame stressand built positive attitudes through game and sports.

“You get relieved from stressand become happy again when you exercise or play games. So bringing these children together to play can help them build confidence and develop positive attitudes towards one another,” she said.  

Action for Conflict Resolution (ACR), engages communities in dialogue through civic educationand sports events to promote peaceful co-existence.

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