South Sudan: The puzzle of science practical lessons for secondary schools
11 March 2013

A group of school children happily pose for a photograph in Maban County, South Sudan with the structures that they use as classrooms in the background. (Mercy Muchai/JRS)
The state government has asked all schools to include practical lessons in teaching of sciences a move that has puzzled schools as most of them do not have the basic facilities needed.
Yambio, 11 March 2013 - Secondary schools in Western Equatoria, South Sudan are grappling with a recent government directive to make science lessons more practical. Secondary schools in Western Equatoria have been conducting theoretical science lessons that exclude practicals because the curriculum they had before South Sudan gained independence emphasized on general science. The new government is concerned about the situation and has moved in and modified the curriculum to make the teaching of sciences more practical. Following the move, the state government distributed basic laboratory equipment to two secondary schools in Yambio County. The state government has asked all schools to include practical lessons in teaching of sciences a move that has puzzled schools as most of them do not have the basic facilities needed.

Change of curriculum. The Western Equatoria state secondary schools curricula for science lessons were purely theoretical, a gap that the state government noted and introduced in all secondary schools practical lessons in sciences. The state government is working towards strengthening the curriculum to ensure it is in line with current systems.

The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Tombura-Yambio is also deeply concerned about the mode of instruction of sciences in schools. He is in support of strengthening the teaching of science lessons to include practicals. While meeting with the minister for education and JRS team, the Bishop noted that within the two counties, no student has ever qualified to train in medicine. The Catholic Bishop felt that it is the reason why he does not have a personal Doctor. The Minister and the Catholic Bishop urged JRS to assist build the capacity of some of the schools to ensure that teachers' capacity is enhanced. They also suggested that, if possible, JRS supports the schools with science basic kits.

The secondary schools in Yambio and Nzara Counties have a limited number of secondary school science teachers. In addition the teachers currently in schools do not have sufficient skills in teaching practical science lessons because they have been teaching theoretical science lessons for a long period of time.

JRS intervention.The JRS needs assessment results indicate that there is only one ill equipped science laboratory at Yabongo girls secondary school in Yambio County. The county has got 5 secondary schools. The government believes that the other secondary schools nearby will be coming to this school to carry out their science lessons. The schools are miles apart, and it may be difficult for the students to attend science practical lessons and still attend other lessons in their respective schools. The school head teachers I talked to expressed a deep concern regarding the logistical part of ensuring students attend all the lessons in a day.

The presence of JRS at Yambio has noted the dilemma and is equally concerned about the schools' situation and teaching system adapted by the schools. The science kits are a burden to the schools while the teachers are ill equipped with teaching skills. They also have insufficient materials and equipment for teaching sciences. JRS assistance in Yambio, Western Equitoria may make a difference in the schools and change the lives of students learning sciences.

By Hezekiah Ronald Ombiro, JRS Yambio Project.

JRS has been present in southern Sudan since 1997, working with people internally displaced due to the civil war. As peace dawned in southern Sudan and northern Uganda, JRS expanded its work and adapted its projects to respond to the needs of the refugees as they returned home, accompanying and serving them as they started to rebuild their lives.JRS has been present in Yambio since January 2013.