About the Author: Marissa Rollens serves in the Bureau of African Affairs.
Role-playing can teach students how to change their communities. NIDAA, Arabic for "call," is a Sudanese development organization that works to improve life in rural Sudan. The U.S. Embassy Khartoum partnered with the organization to host a Rural School Development Theatre Program focusing on conflict resolution and peace-building in small communities in the region. So far, this partnership has trained six teachers and 64 students from two schools in the South Kordofan state in the Nuba Mountains of central Sudan. South Kordofan was affected badly during the civil conflicts of the last century, and remained out-of-bounds for aid agencies until recently. Lack of access to aid, and services, as well as isolation from markets, resulted in the underdevelopment of these villages.
NIDAA uses theater arts (acting, puppetry, and mask-acting) to teach practical skills. They also focus on building awareness of several key human rights, such the right of free expression. Additionally, they aim to reinforce interaction among multicultural and multiethnic groups. At the end of the two week program, NIDAA reported that, despite the tense relationship between the two participating villages, the students created a spirit of cooperation and made friends across village boundaries. They even visited each other's homes.
Program organizers reported that over 1,300 members of the two villages attended the final performance of the students' plays. Moreover, funding for the project also allowed the Embassy and NIDAA to donate generators, radios, and art supplies to the two schools. Hopefully, the lessons learned through play by these children will teach their families, friends, and communities to live in peace.
Peace begins at the village level. One of the State Department's foreign policy priorities is to support full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Sudan, including the holding of a credible referendum this month. With the international community, the United States will facilitate a political agreement that aims to stop the violence in Darfur, including cross-border violence with Chad, and allows the return of displaced persons to their home areas and promotes regional engagement that effectively counters terrorism and supports stability. Helping future generations learn how to live peacefully is one step toward helping Sudan achieve political stability and economic prosperity.
A video of the NIDAA performance can be viewed here.