06 May 2010
|Girl's Education Day in Kajo Keji encourages girls to attend school, as there is a large discrepancy between girls and boys attendance at school (Phil Cunningham/JRS)|
|According to UNICEF, school attendance rates in Southern Sudan have tripled in the last four years. Since 2005, they have increased from 343,000 – then the lowest in the world – to more than 1.3 million, of which more than 500,000 are girls.|
Juba, 6 May 2010 — Considerable achievements have been made since Southern Sudan first launched the “Go to School” campaign in 2006, an education for all initiative aimed at boosting primary school enrolment, especially among girls.
“Girl’s enrolment increased to around 30-35 percent from 27 percent at the end of 2008, many schools were built by both development partners and the government, teachers have been retrained and in some states they receive regular salaries – these are considerable achievements,” says Francis Biryaho, JRS Education Officer for Southern Sudan.
According to UNICEF, school attendance rates in Southern Sudan have tripled in the last four years. Since 2005, they have increased from 343,000 – then the lowest in the world – to more than 1.3 million, of which more than 500,000 are girls.
However, huge challenges remain. Nearly half of primary school age girls still do not go to school and the drop-out rate is very high. Twelve to 15 percent of the boys and only nine percent of the girls enrolled complete primary education, according to an official from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MOEST). Most girls drop out because they cannot pay the school fees or for cultural reasons related to their gender, such as early or forced marriage or because they have to help their mothers with house work.
Not enough school buildings are available to meet the increase in enrolment and many school children still study under trees.
Since the Southern Sudanese authorities recently started removing teachers unable to present valid qualification from the government payroll without replacing them, some schools are short of teachers. Although this move aims to establish a well trained teacher work force in Southern Sudan, most communities did not welcome it. Many of the untrained teachers taught for free during the war but no effort has been made so far to retrain them.
Since the education act has not been passed by the parliament yet, MOEST is operating without educational laws or legal framework. “We are currently operating in a vacuum and therefore urge the new National Assembly of Southern Sudan to pass the act into law,” said the state minister of Central Equatoria at the celebration of the “Go to School” initiative’s anniversary last month in the regional capital, Juba.
There is also need for a unified curriculum. So far, schools in Southern Sudan are using various curricula from Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, thus causing disparities in education.
“The education ministry, development partners and donors all need to move beyond primary education and look for ways to boost secondary education,” said a representative of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) at the ceremony, drawing attention to yet another challenge.
“The communities need to develop a sense of ownership for education,” says Dr. Biryaho. “They have to make a choice as to what type of environment they want their children to grow up in and assume leadership for their schools. Therefore, JRS keeps training management bodies, such as boards of governors or parents-teachers-associations.”
Through school construction and the provision of teacher training, girls’ education, adult literacy and peace education in four projects, JRS has contributed considerably to the success of the “Go to School” initiative in Southern Sudan.
The “Go to School” initiative was first launched by Southern Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir Mayardit, in April 2006, after the signing of the peace accord that ended an over two decade long civil war. "Though the war is over, we have yet another war to fight,” the President had said at the launching ceremony. “In this new war against disease, hunger and poverty, the pen is the greatest weapon.”
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