Two Methodist University students who were once refugees of war in the Sudan region are spending the summer in their new home country of South Sudan promoting peace through education.
Nyoma Clement, a financial economics major, and Talata Evers, a political science and international relations major, are juniors at Methodist. They worked with Joy Minalla, who attends Macalester College in Minnesota, to renovate and restock a school library in South Sudan. The students also led workshops on leadership and problem solving.
South Sudan became independent of Sudan in July 2011, but fighting has been reported between the two countries this year. About 2.5 million people died from starvation and drought during decades of conflict in the region, the CIA website says.
Clement said in an email Wednesday that he and the other students lived in exile as poor refugees when they were young. They saw conflicts driven by illiteracy and poverty, he said.
"There was a need to bring peace amidst diversity," Clement said.
All three students were awarded United Nations scholarships to study in other countries, he said.
"We asked ourselves, now that we have gone through a lot and enjoyed many opportunities, how do we make sure that some younger South Sudanese can enjoy the same opportunities like the ones we did?" he said.
The students discussed several possible projects, Clement said. After considering ideas for providing water, empowering women, teaching computer lesson and transforming society, they settled on the education project.
Only 27 percent of people ages 15 or older in South Sudan can read and write, the CIA estimates.
The project, called "Rebuilding the Ruins and Promoting Peace," started June 1 and is in its final stages this week. The students received a $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace grant that encourages young people to create and try ideas for building peace.
Clement said the library at St. Joseph Secondary School, which is about three miles from the town of Yei in the southern part of the country, was renovated with four new shelves, four study tables, eight stools and eight benches. The library has been stocked with 235 new books and five biology charts, he said.
The students say on the project's website, youtheducationforpeace.org, that their efforts are meant to give young people a way out of poverty.