“I heard the sound of gunfire and I saw my uncle be shot and killed. I was scared,” she recalled.
Life for Charity and her family is no longer the same.
Together with her siblings and their mother Alice, she has sought protection in Yei – about a day’s walk south of their home village. The displaced family has moved into an empty house, vacated by another family, who once were also forced to flee.
Alice was able to bring her children to safety after armed men entered their home and tore their lives apart. Despite feeling relatively safe now, the memories of that day are still haunting them.
“My children are too scared. There is no happiness,” she said. “It makes me cry to see them this way.”
Despite a peace agreement signed last year, conflicts are continuing to drive people from their homes in several parts of South Sudan. Yei is experiencing a steady influx of people leaving neighbouring villages in search of safety.
More than half of the displaced population are children and many are without access to adequate education.
Frightened children are forced to adapt to an unfamiliar place, many bearing the psychological scars of war. School is often the best place for children to attempt to heal those invisible wounds.
NRC is providing education in emergencies programmes for displaced children in several parts of South Sudan. In Yei, more than 5000 children are back to school, thanks to support from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO).
Back at school
After the chaos of that unimaginable day, Charity is almost back to her normal routine.
Every day she picks up her school bag and walks to St. Thomas Primary School, not far from her temporary home.
NRC has built a new school building and is supporting the education activities.
“Education is important for everyone, but it is especially important for children affected by emergencies. It can help them cope with life in a new place, give them some routines and support in a new and challenging environment and it reduces the likelihood of children being abducted by armed groups or pushed into child labour,” says NRC’s education specialist Fred Can Wat.
Wanting to fly
At school, children learn how to deal with the memories of war, and education offers them hope for a better future.
“School clears my mind and makes me think that I can be a good person. That is why I want to go to school,” explains Levi Hakim – one of Charity's classmates.
“I am happy to be back at school again. I want to go to school and learn so that I am able to understand how to drive a vehicle or maybe become a pilot in the future. I want to take people to other locations. I want to see Juba (the capital of South Sudan), Kenya and Uganda,” says Charity.
Her whole face is smiling as she shares her dreams for the future.
Investing in the future
Charity's brave mother Alice is ready to do everything in her power to ensure that her children are able to continue their education.
“If my children are educated in the future, they will be able to take care of themselves. And if they are happy, I will not have any worries,” she said.