Students line up in an event last year (file photo/Juba Monitor):
By Rose Keji Benjamin
The five-year conflict which started in 2013 has dashed many dreams and opportunities. For 18-year old Emmanuel Loli Joseph, the conflict shattered his hopes and dreams of getting educated.
Emmanuel who is now left with his mother lost his father in the midst of the 2013 fighting.
He was forced to drop out of school since his mother could not afford to keep him in school.
Emmanuel said he dropped out of school since 2013 when he was in primary four. He is currently a casual worker in Juba Town in order to help his mother who is unemployed in the village.
“I cannot go back to school because I am the one helping my mother if I go to school who will help my mother?” Emmanuel asked. “My mother is in the village and I am working here in Juba in order to send money to help her so I cannot go back to school if I go back to school she will suffer.”
“There is no body helping me in order to go back to school,” the 18-year old added.
Speaking to Juba Monitor last week, Emmanuel said there were lots of problems they (orphans) face after their parents died in the conflict. He said the problems they face now cannot allow them go back to school.
The 18-year old said the government should help school dropouts go back to school.
The problem of children dropping out of School is very serious in South Sudan. One of the reasons responsible for this is the ongoing conflict.
According to UNICEF, 72 percent of pupils drop out of school before finishing primary school. The UN Agency also said South Sudan continues to be the country with the highest number of primary school drop outs in the world.
UNESCO believes 53 percent of children were displaced, having fled their homes to other parts of the country and others to the neighboring countries hence the number of school dropouts continues to increase.
Despite the challenges, the government of South Sudan early this month said at least 1.5 million South Sudanese children have enrolled in schools in 2018 despite the ongoing civil war that has displaced more than four million people.
According to statistics from the School Attendance Monitoring System, an online education monitoring platform, school enrollment this year reached a record breaking 1.5 million in May, up from less than one million in 2013.
The deputy headmistress of Juba One Boys Primary School Clementina Kiden Arkangelo said conflict and the economic crisis forced most of the children to dropout.
She said the parents sometimes think that fighting would start while their children were in schools that is why they keep their children at home during conflicts which results to high cases of school dropouts.
“Due to the conflict, some of the children’s parents were both killed, in some cases, the children are only lucky to remain with single parents. The children are forced to the streets to look for ways of survival. Some resort to manual works such as collecting plastic bottles for sale while others become robbers,” she explained.
Last year 200 school children returned to her school when WFP introduced the school feeding program. She said only 47 of the children did not return to school after they dropped out of school, she said.
“Children are forced to learn but because of negative attitudes and the war situation, they think they are forcing themselves to learn while there is no job,” Ms. Clementine stated.
She said she invited parents several times for meetings but they did not turn up which shows “they are not serious.”
“Now if you see the children are not in the class, they don’t want to attend classes,” she said. “I cannot understand as if there is no food at home or the parents are not serious about the children going to school,” Ms Clementina stressed.
The Director for Planning Emmanuel Ladu stated that the Ministry of Education always emphasizes that education is the key element in human life.
“We believe that challenges are there but we really have to see how we can go about those challenges,” he added.
Mr. Ladu said both at the national and state level efforts were being made to solve most of the challenges facing the education sector.
“The other aspect is also to give awareness to the parents and guidance so that they know the importance of education,” he said.
He added that due to the current conflict, most of the people in the states came to Juba which contributed to the overcrowding in most schools.
“You’ll find that all the schools are overcrowded. And as far as I know the primary schools have kind of a class which is supposed to take like 40 to 50 pupils. That one is taking over 100. And similarly the secondary schools have their number which is going beyond 70 to 80 where I guess it was about 50 students in that class. So this is one challenge,” he explained.
According to Ladu, the other challenge was the shortage of text books but “hopefully we can get competent people.”
He said they hope with the upcoming new curriculum, a number of textbooks will be printed and teachers will be trained to help the students.
“Hopefully that will address most of these issues. The respective schools can actually campaign in the communities that those who are in the city and do not want to come to school due to a number of challenges have to be talked to in regard to the importance of education,” Mr. Ladu said.
He also attributed the occurrence of school dropouts to the economic crisis because “we know that education in South Sudan is having a lot of challenges.”
“One of the challenges is the daily need for students to go to school. Most of the schools are far from the residential areas, they need to use transport which in most cases is not affordable by the parents,” he said.