National, News

Over 2.8 million children in South Sudan remain out of school

By Charles K Mark

Girls’ Education South Sudan (GESS) has revealed that more than 2.8 million children in the country remain out of school, with poverty being the biggest barrier to their enrollment.

The GESS Team Leader, Akuja Mading De Garang, said in a statement that girls are often the first to miss out as boys are traditionally prioritized when families struggle to meet the costs of schooling.

She added that a lack of schools means many children must travel long distances or miss out entirely, while high levels of child marriage and early pregnancy mean girls drop out and may never return.

Akuja stressed that the economic impacts of the climate crisis mean families cannot afford to send children to school, while flooding continues to destroy the few infrastructures.

“Even for those children who are enrolled, a lack of qualified teachers is severely impacting the quality of their learning,” said Akuja.

GESS reported that between 2019 and 2023, 1.05 million girls received cash transfers to help them and their families meet the costs of going to school, buy uniforms, books, and sanitary items, and pay for transport.

“Over the past decade, two phases of the GESS program have helped enable a dramatic increase in the number of girls enrolled in school—from just over 520,000 in primary and 9,900 in secondary in 2011, to nearly one million in primary and over 70,000 in secondary in 2022.”

The team leader continued, “Thanks to our donors for their incredible support and our dedicated team, who work in incredibly challenging environments across South Sudan to ensure all eligible girls are reached.”

Akuja quoted one of the recipients of the cash transfer, Stella Poni, saying, “When I was in Primary 3, I wanted to reach Primary 5 so I could benefit from the GESS funds.

And now Poni is in Senior 4 and has received the money seven times.

“The money has helped me not miss out on my education. When I receive the money, I buy sanitary pads that I can use for the whole term. This helps me to attend classes daily,” said Poni.

The GESS team leader called upon the government of South Sudan to prioritize support for the education sector, especially for the most marginalized children, including girls and children with disabilities.

The Girls Education South Sudan Program (GESS) is a multi-donor partnership between the governments of the UK, Canada, the EU, the United States, and Sweden.

The program’s coordinator said by March 2024, donors will have spent over $93 million under the GESS 2 program (2018–2024) as well as provided cash transfers to girls.

GESS 2 has supported nearly 250 secondary schools with grants to meet their basic running costs, reached over 2.3 million people with community education and radio programs on the importance of education, and provided school-based mentoring to almost 23,000 children across 228 schools.

The program has also provided nearly 600 teachers with the opportunity to complete their secondary education through accelerated learning programs and trained over 400 education staff to enable better-run schools.

The GESS also provided public financial management technical assistance to national and state education ministry officials to improve transparency and accountability within the education sector.




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