As a preventive measure against COVID-19, the Government of South Sudan decided to close all education institutions in South Sudan in March 2020. This put additional 2 million children out of school and threatened to roll back the educational gains made over the last decades. To mitigate some of the learning losses due to the school closure, the Ministry of General Education and Instruction (MoGEI), UNICEF and partners launched a distance learning programme using radio. The programme delivered live lessons in English, mathematics and science. As many families do not have radios, UNICEF also handed out radios to some of the most vulnerable families.
Schools in South Sudan should re-open and remain open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as evidence indicates children and schools are not drivers of infections, but closed schools have devastating negative impact on children’s physical and mental health, nutrition, safety and learning. The longer schoolchildren are out of school, the less likely they are to return. This is especially true for girls. Many girls in South Sudan will never return to school after this year’s school closure as they are married off early or pregnant. Many boys will not return as they have moved on in life. If children are faced with another year of school closures, the effects will be felt for generations to come. It is important that children go back to school, even if all water and sanitation standards cannot be met right away. We need good schools, but we need children back in class, even if we cannot meet all standards immediately. Since schools are not pandemic drivers and children are less likely to get infected, it is in the best interest of children schools re-open and remain open in South Sudan.