SEATTLE — Education in South Sudan is in state of crisis. The region has the highest number of children out of school than any other nation. More than half, 51 percent, of South Sudanese children are not in classrooms. An even greater percentage, 70 percent, of children aged 6 to 17 years have never stepped foot in a classroom.
Even before conflict erupted in South Sudan in 2013, at least 1.4 million children were unable to attend school. In the past two years, another 400,000 children have dropped out of school and 800 educational buildings have been demolished.
Due to the difficulty of attaining accurate statistics in areas of conflict, UNICEF warns that these figures could be much higher.
Jo Bourne, UNICEF’S Chief of Education, said in a statement: “Children living in countries affected by conflict have lost their homes, family members, friends, safety and routine. Now, unable to learn even the basic reading and writing skills, they are at risk of losing their futures and missing out on the opportunity to contribute to their economies and societies when they reach adulthood.”
According to UNICEF, the adult literacy rate in South Sudan already stands at 27 percent. And this trend is continuing. A 2010 Sudan Household Health Survey reported that 53.4 percent of children in the poorest households are not in school, compared to 3.6 percent in the richest.
But there is hope. Through the Basic Education Recovery Project, which is supported by the World Bank, the South Sudanese government is making efforts to change education in South Sudan.
With a $76.5 million grant from the Global Partnership for Education, the project has so far funded construction of 632 new classrooms, along with latrines and water tanks. The project will also provide 13 million textbooks. These textbooks will serve to ensure that both children and teachers have access to improved education materials.
For Suad Abdel-Razig, Sudan’s first female Federal Minister of General Education, building a sustainable system is essential.
“One of the project’s main achievements, beyond the provision of educational services, is that it has set the example for strengthening Sudan’s education system through its various components,” Abdel-Razig said.
UNICEF notes that in nations marked by instability and conflict, schools are more than a place of learning, they allow for safe environments for play as well as learning. While also giving the community hope for the future.
It is through their partnership with the Global Partnership for Education, that the World Bank is empowering South Sudanese children by improving education in South Sudan and ensuring that children have the skills necessary to contribute to the nation’s economic transition away from conflict.
Sources: BBC, IB Times, UNICEF, VOA News, World Bank