At least 2.2 million children in South Sudan are not receiving an education – the highest proportion of out of school children in the world according to a report launched by UNESCO on 3 July 2018. Years of conflict, displacement and economic collapse continue to deprive children of education, harming the future of the country.
The Global Initiative on Out of School Children South Sudan Country Study, authored by UNESCO jointly with the Ministry of General Education and Instruction and UNESCO Institute for Statistics, is a first for the country, and warns that in just two years the number of children out of school will increase by another 200,000, to 2.4 million, if conditions in the country remain unchanged.
“We cannot leave children behind. They are the future of South Sudan,” said Sardar Umar Alam, UNESCO’s Representative to South Sudan. “This is a call to action. We must work together – everyone including the government, civil society and development partners – to urgently support and invest in teachers and getting children into schools”.
The study also found that in addition to the large number of out of school children in South Sudan, up to 86% of learners are at least five years over age for their grade level – meaning that a learner in primary level 1 (entry age: 5 years-old) may be 10 years old or older. This proves to be a significant challenge especially for older learners where their needs are to obtain as quickly as possible the skills to provide a livelihood for themselves and their families.
“There are many challenges for children in South Sudan to attend schools,” says Minister Deng Deng Hoc Yai, Minister of General Education and Instruction. “We must build schools; work to encourage girls to go to school; and train more teachers to retain and attract students”.
The countrywide study calls for greater investments in improved education data to allow for evidence-based education activities and further profiling of out of school children, while stressing the importance of functional schools with clean water, books, trained teachers and a safe learning environment free from conflict.
“Investing in education is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do,” said Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF’s Representative in South Sudan. “Educated children are able to build a better future for themselves, and the country”.
Along with the Minister of General Education and Instruction, USAID, DFID, UNICEF, the Ambassador of Norway to South Sudan and the Ambassador of Egypt to South Sudan strongly support the report and urge stakeholders to work together to get children back into school. The report was also made possible with support from the Global Partnership for Education and UNICEF.