Thousands of students in South Sudan failed to sit their final examinations in primary schools this week following fresh inter-communal fighting that erupted in parts of Jonglei and Unity States.
The two areas are controlled by forces loyal to Vice-President Riek Machar and have seen a sharp rise in violence over the past weeks that has displaced thousands of people.
At least 75,000 candidates are sitting the test this year to determine whether they will go to secondary school.
South Sudan’s education minister said the examinations in Jonglei and Unity States had been cancelled as the government could not guarantee the safety of invigilators in the areas.
She said several of her staff had been abducted this week in Jonglei and money meant for teachers had been stolen by unknown gunmen.
But the opposition says the cancellation of the exams is political and will affect the future of thousands of students.
The UN recently said that a surge in inter-ethnic fighting in Warrap, Maban and Jonglei areas had killed hundreds of people and forced thousands more to flee their homes in just a few weeks.
The head of the UN Mission in South Sudan, David Shearer, warned that the slow implementation of the peace agreement signed in 2018 poses a direct threat to the fragile peace in the world’s newest nation.
As part of the deal, President Salva Kiir and his rival Mr Machar formed a transitional government but they have failed to resolve key issues, including the unification of their forces into a single national army and a new constitution ahead of next year’s elections.