06 August 2010
|Participants spoke of the need to develop tools for collecting data at grassroots level and provide training|
Juba, 1 July 2010 – The education sector in the autonomous region of Southern Sudan lacks the mechanisms and procedures to respond in emergencies, according to a specialist, John Yuggi, working for the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).
At a conference last month, organised by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MOEST) and UNICEF, participants heard about plans proposed by the authorities to ensure the availability of emergency education services within four weeks of a disaster.
Sudan is frequently subject to a variety of natural and man-made disasters, including floods, droughts, outbreaks of infectious diseases and conflicts between ethnic groups.
According to the Inter-Agency for Education in Emergencies (INEE) - a global network of representatives from NGOs, UN agencies, donor agencies, governments, academic institutions and schools - quality education in emergency situations provides physical, psychosocial and cognitive protection, which can be both life-sustaining and life-saving.
INEE maintains that "Education mitigates the psychosocial impact of conflict and disasters by giving a sense of normalcy, stability, structure and hope for the future quality education can save lives by providing physical protection from the dangers and exploitation of a crisis environment."
Although the authorities have begun the consultation process, it may be some time before the procedures are operational. In this regard, the conference participants raised a number of pressing issues.
They urged the authorities to consider what will happen if the population votes for independence next year. For example, if the majority of schools find themselves without textbooks, the Sudanese curriculum and central coordination in Khartoum, will this constitute an emergency? Is MOEST ready to deal with this kind of emergency, they questioned.
Other practical obstacles facing policymakers include the need to overcome the lack of data on education in the autonomous region. Participants spoke of the need to develop tools for collecting data at grassroots level and provide training.
For instance, some schools were recently closed in the state of Western Equatoria due to security fears related to the presence of the Ugandan rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). Unfortunately, there are as yet no mechanisms or procedures for the other states in Southern Sudan to be able to intervene and alleviate the situation.
"School children found themselves in Yambio town [Western Equatoria] without appropriate learning spaces, food, instructional materials and teachers" said an official from the state ministry of education.
The situation facing schools in Lobone district is another clear example of the need for procedures in emergency education. Most NGOs, with the exception of JRS and a few others, consider the area too dangerous. Moreover, during the rainy season, travel in the area becomes a major problem, affecting the delivery of education materials.
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