Peter Bay went from being a child soldier with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army during Sudan's civil war to becoming a teacher and then a teacher trainer. His story is one of hope for South Sudan, from the world's newest country.
Like many of his generation, Peter Bay fought with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army during the civil war. Recruited as a child soldier, he missed years of school. Today he works hard to ensure the next generation of children have an education.
‘In 1987, when I was in grade six [aged 13], I was recruited together with other child soldiers,’ recalls Peter. ‘The first day was bad because that was when they came. You are picked from school and your mother is crying and they are dragging you.
‘It was terrible for the first six months or a year. But eventually the only thing in life seems to be war and guns. Someone who handles a gun is much more superior than someone who has no gun.’
But, after many of his friends died, Peter was happy to leave the army: ‘It may only be you surviving and it creates fear. Being in the army, you become a soldier, you only think of being a soldier - whether you are killed or you kill somebody.
‘At the end I felt it was quite bad for somebody to be a child soldier.’
After five years as a child soldier, Peter faced the daunting challenge of returning to school to catch up. ‘My ambition was to be a medical doctor. That was what I was focusing on, but that break of five years was too great for me to carry on my career,’ he says.
Despite the challenges Peter was determined to complete his education. He worked hard at school before training as a teacher and then going on to train others.
Today he is principal of Mundri Relief and Development Association’s Kotobi Institute for Teacher Education.
Peter says: ‘We need to encourage young people to come for teacher training. I felt I can come here and help this community. I am from this area. I believe that by being here they can listen to me and I will be a role model.’
Educating the next generation
For Peter, improving the quality of education on offer in South Sudan and ensuring that all children can go to school is important for them as individuals and for the future of the region.
Peter says: ‘Education is needed for South Sudan to develop. We need educated people. We need teachers, doctors, health workers and the rest to put this country in place.’