After 42 years of intermittent civil war and local conflicts, the situation in South Sudan is fragile. As of 2018, this conflict had resulted in almost 400,000 deaths and the displacement of millions. Since 2014, South Sudan has been experiencing one of the most acute refugee crises in the world. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 1.9 million people have been forced from their homes. The country is also facing considerable humanitarian challenges. Consequently, much of the population lacks human rights protections and is dependent on humanitarian assistance. Moreover, many children in South Sudan are traumatised by the war and do not have access to schooling or any opportunity to take part in safe, fun activities.
The Cross Cultures Project Association is collaborating with the South Sudan Football Association (SSFA) to provide access to football activities for children affected by decades of war and conflict, and to contribute to peace and reconciliation among different ethnic groups. In December 2018, Cross Cultures undertook a small baseline study together with the SSFA, which revealed that only 67 boys and 48 girls aged between 6 and 15 years played football in a formal club in the Torit area, and only 71 youth teams for children under 17 and 12 female teams were registered with the SSFA in Juba (involving fewer than 1,500 persons).
Some 3,600 children now take part in weekly Open Fun Football Schools activities organised by Cross Cultures. The programme provides a friendly, joyful and non-violent environment in which people of different backgrounds can play together, along with an informal platform for educating children and youngsters in other life skills.
The project focuses on the integration of school dropouts and the large number of internally displaced children returning to their homes after many years. The activities are primarily run by youth leaders, young volunteer coaches and coach assistants.
(Note: The Covid-19 pandemic is of course impacting the programme. The number of people affected by Covid-19 in South Sudan is increasing every day. Schools are closed. Children are at home. Their movements are restricted, and they are prohibited from gathering in larger groups and playing football with their friends.
However, maintaining a lockdown in South Sudan is challenging because it is among the poorest countries in the world and households need to earn a daily income for food and other necessities. People are therefore forced to move around cities visiting locations such as markets and taxi stands, with a high risk of spreading the virus. In addition, poorer families, orphans and street children do not have access to information regarding the outbreak or proper sanitation.
In light of the above, the Open Fun Football Schools programme has been suspended and its 200 young volunteer football coaches are assisting South Sudan's health authorities, for example by providing Covid‑19 information and distributing sanitation kits directly to 1,000 vulnerable households and orphans involved in the programme and distributing information in public places. These activities were not originally included in the programme.)
The Open Fun Football Schools programme aims to mobilise and train 200 young men and women to run activities that contribute to peaceful inter-ethnic relations, improved livelihoods, health, gender equality and the protection of the environment and natural resources. The project focuses on the inclusion of orphans and internally displaced people and returnees in Torit and Juba communities.
- A train-the-trainers seminar will be held for Open Fun Football Schools instructors on how to use grassroots football to encourage integration, peaceful inter-ethnic relations and social change.
- A two-day capacity-building seminar for voluntary coaches as well as on-the-job training will be run by the youth football instructors and international CCPA staff.
- A five-day Open Fun Football Schools course will be offered for vulnerable, socially vulnerable and isolated children.
- Training and coaching will be provided to football instructors, coaches, assistant coaches, parents and older children on how to include hygiene, sanitation and Covid-19 awareness campaigns in the programme.
- The young volunteer coaches will hold health and hygiene training on Covid-19, water-borne diseases and other related illnesses, which are among the leading causes of human suffering and death in South Sudan.
- At least 40% of the children involved in the programme must be girls and a minimum of 50% of the participants must be orphans, children from poor families or other out-of-school children.
- Sixteen young people are to be trained to become instructors and football instructors.
- The 16 football instructors are to recruit 96 volunteer coaches and 96 volunteer assistant coaches.
- Some 2,000 children aged between 6 and 12, of whom a minimum of 50% are to be girls, are to take part in five-day Open Fun Football Schools courses, with eight festivals to be held.
- The Open Fun Football Schools approach is to be formalised and implemented, providing a sustainable support structure for volunteer-led sports activities.
- The young football instructors and coaches are to be trained in health and hygiene.
- A further 194 voluntary coaches and assistant coaches are to be trained by the instructors in health and hygiene.