By Aidan Ledwell
The problem that I would like to tackle is the issue of education and literacy rate in South Sudan. Due to fifty years of civil war and strife in the country, the quality of education in the country is abysmal. The most prominent example of this is the literacy rate in South Sudan – only 27% percent of the entire population is literate overall, which is the lowest literacy rate in the entire world. In addition, there is a huge discrepancy between male and female literacy rates – while the male literacy rate is 34.84%, the female literacy rate is only 19.19% (about half of the male literacy rate). Other education issues include the fact that over half of the 1.8 million-strong child population of South Sudan are currently out of school, and many schools have been destroyed by armed groups or are empty simply because students and teachers alike are too afraid to attend. A report by UNICEF in South Sudan states that 70% of children between ages six and seventeen have never been inside of a classroom, and that only one in ten students completes primary school. The government of South Sudan has stated that 6,000 additional schools need to be built, but only 4% of the government’s budget in 2018 was allocated to education funding.
South Sudan’s education minister, Deng Deng Hoc Yai, has stated that he wants to improve the country’s education system to deliver quality education, saying that living can be a “powerful weapon” for achieving peace and security. However, his goal will be hard to reach, due to the country’s constant civil strife, the government’s lack of prioritization for education, and the fact that South Sudan remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be an aid worker, with 95 aid workers having been killed already since the conflict began.
Another issue is the lack of trained teachers – the majority of available teachers in South Sudan have only received primary or secondary certificates of education. In addition, between 2006 and 2010, the number of primary students more than doubled, from 700,000 to 1.6 million; however, the number of available educators has not risen to accommodate for this, leaving the resources for teaching stretched far too thin.
However, several efforts to mend this problem have been made – while most of the international donor aid for South Sudan goes to humanitarian efforts, education has been supported by the UK’s Department for International Development, through an $85 million dollar program known as Girls Education South Sudan that will last six years. More than 200,000 have been able to remain in school thanks to this program, and DFID has considered funding a second phase. In addition, the EU has been helping by topping up teachers’ salaries by up to $40 per teacher per month, as well as funding a pilot promoting education for roving and isolated communities in South Sudan, run by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Industry. Finally, the Global Partnership for Education allocated the government $36 million in 2012, and has also agreed to provide an additional $30 million subject to the ministry’s proposal getting approval from the GPE board later this year.
Overall, while domestic funding for South Sudan’s education system is declining and proper educators in short supply, the fact that many organizations are making the decision to offer educational aid to South Sudan means that the future may be brighter than hoped, although whether all of these organizations can or will continue to support South Sudan’s educational system remains to be seen.