Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Re-creating the education system in South Sudan

During the Sudan civil war, many children from the south did not go to school. Children had to bravely leave their homeland to receive an education from the people that were fighting against them. Once there, the students would be discriminated against for their color and would even have their lives threatened. Now that the south is independent, a push is on to make education a priority for the new country.

From the Inter Press Service, writer Protus Onyango talks about the need to re-create an education system in South Sudan.

South Sudan has three generations of children who have never seen the inside of a classroom. According to Dr. Michael Hussein, the minister for general education, the education sector suffered most during the civil war.

"Teachers were neglected, salaries were not regular, there was no training and many fled the war-torn areas. As a result, three generations lost the opportunity to go to school," says the minister.

The issue of education in South Sudan is so critical that most leaders are calling on the youth to go back to school.

Lieutenant General Daniel Akot, the Deputy Speaker of the national assembly is calling on his colleagues to pass relevant laws that will make it possible for all South Sudanese children to access education. "We have won the war with our enemy. Now the real war of fighting poverty, ignorance and hunger has started. We can’t achieve this when our children don’t go to school," he says.

Hussein is urging the government to dedicate at least 20 percent of its national budget to his ministry. He said his ministry wants to build 6,000 primary and 3,000 secondary schools respectively.

"We have some areas that have 120 pupils per teacher, making learning impossible. One textbook is being shared among five pupils. We want to recruit many teachers, train more of them. We welcome those of our citizens who fled the country and (were educated) around the world to come back and bridge the big gap of a lack of personnel," says Hussein.

Hussein says that by the end of 2010, South Sudan had 169 pre-primary schools with 47,266 pupils and 1,249 teachers. There are 3,195 primary schools with 1.3 million pupils and 2,912 teachers. And there are 168 secondary schools with 34,487 students and three functional teacher-training colleges with 2,310 trainees.

But there remains about two million young South Sudanese who have not attended school, against an acute shortage of teachers. The government is working with its neighbours, like Kenya, to provide it with teachers. Kenya has over 70,000 unemployed trained teachers.

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