Thousands of South Sudanese children previously forced out of school by conflict have resumed studies under program supported by the UN.
The South Sudan Emergency Education Program (EEP) has been supported by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) since 2014, officials said on Monday.
South Sudanese Minister of General Education Deng Deng Hoc Yai said that despite 464,844 children being enrolled back in primary schools, South Sudan needs to increase enrollment through increasing temporary learning centers supported by UNICEF under the Integrated Essential Emergency Education Services (IEES), a three-year project under the EEP.
“We need to do more because there is a report produced by UN Education, Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for the (education) ministry that we have 2 million children out of school and this figure is likely to increase to 2.4 million children if we do nothing,” he said in Juba during the launch of the program.
Yai said they need to set up more temporary learning spaces to cater for more school-age children especially in rural areas where there are few schools.
He disclosed that many communities in South Sudan have not fully appreciated the importance and value of education due to the fact that many South Sudanese are still very conservative and most communities have few educated people.
“We are learning late but we need to double our efforts, we need to leap frog other nations, we should not follow their first steps but we should start where they are and move forward that would mean providing quality education for everybody,” he said.
An estimated 2.2 million children dropped out of school due to destruction and looting of schools during the more than four years’ conflict that further displaced millions, leaving some children affected psychologically.
The IEES project is designed to increase retention of most vulnerable boys and girls in schools by providing sustained learning opportunities and aims to improve the learning outcomes, level of protection, resilience and recovery of an additional 300,000 girls and boys living amidst violent conflict.
Andrea Suley, the UNICEF deputy country representative, said both the government and development partners have a lead role to play in ensuring children learn in safe and protected environments.
Wendy Wheaton, Acting director of Education South Sudan at the United States International Development Agency Bureau for Africa, said that since outbreak of war this project has been a lifeline for 165,000 girls and boys who were determined to continue learning.
She said South Sudan has gained much from education emergency program since its inception in May 2014, but that there is still so much to done to improve education standards as South Sudan has one of the highest rate of out of school children in the world.
Meanwhile, Michael Lopuke Lotyam, the undersecretary in the Ministry of Education, said the program has improved school enrollment from a meagre 900,000 in 2014 to at least 1.6 million children currently enrolled in School.