School enrolment rates double in southern Sudan, reports UN children’s agency

3 April 2007

The number of students enrolled in school in southern Sudan has more than doubled since the end of the long-running civil war two years ago, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which is backing a local campaign to provide hundreds of new or renovated classrooms and millions of schoolbooks, pencils and other materials to encourage better enrolment rates.

The number of students enrolled in school in southern Sudan has more than doubled since the end of the long-running civil war two years ago, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which is backing a local campaign to provide hundreds of new or renovated classrooms and millions of schoolbooks, pencils and other materials to encourage better enrolment rates.

About 850,000 children are now enrolled in southern Sudan, UNICEF reported yesterday, up from an estimated 343,000 during the war, which ended with the signing of a comprehensive peace deal in January 2005. Some 34 per cent of the enrolled children are girls, considered a milestone given some traditional beliefs about education for girls.

Much of the increase has occurred only in the last year, since the Government of Southern Sudan’s education, science and technology ministry launched its “Go To School” initiative, supported by UNICEF.

That scheme, which aims to send 1.6 million children to school by the end of this year, was created after local leaders identified education as the key to reconstruction in the wake of the north-south war, which lasted for 21 years. A separate conflict has raged in the Darfur region in the country’s west since 2003.

Simon Strachan, UNICEF’s Director in southern Sudan, described education as “the single most important investment for southern Sudan. We need to do everything in our power to keep the classroom doors open for the children.”

UNICEF is appealing for $30 million for education in southern Sudan to train teachers, erect permanent schools and provide learning materials to help pupils to stay in the classroom and obtain a full education.

Michael Milli Hussein, the southern Sudanese Minister of Education, Science and Technology, called for unprecedented efforts and cooperation to make sure that enrolment rates continue to rise.

“Southern Sudan has already lost a generation to war,” he said. “We can’t afford to lose yet another generation to illiteracy. Now is the time to act.”

Under the initiative, which is being funded by Japan, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United States, German and Swiss national committees or funds for UNICEF among others, more than 200 permanent classrooms are being built and almost 300 existing rooms are being redeveloped.

The war had such a devastating effect on southern Sudan’s infrastructure that only 16 per cent of the 2,922 schools operating in the region had permanent buildings when fighting ended.

Last year more than 2,500 teachers were trained and this year a further 5,000 teachers are slated to receive training in English and teaching methods.

Millions of schoolbags, books, pencils and other learning materials have also been delivered to schools, using trucks or sometimes river barges or helicopters to reach the more remote locations.

 

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