School enrolment soars in southern Sudan thanks to UN-backed initiative

School enrolment soars in southern Sudan thanks to UN-backed initiative

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Some 1.3 million children in southern Sudan are expected to start classes this year, compared to just 340,000 in 2005, thanks to an initiative supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to boost school enrolment and strengthen the education system.

The “Go to School” Initiative was launched a year after the January 2005 signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended the north-south civil war that killed as many as two million people and displaced 4.5 million others.

Underscoring the need to build on the gains made so far, UNICEF Country Representative in Sudan Ted Chaiban stressed that education is the single most important investment for southern Sudan. “We need a determination that is unshaken to get every southern Sudanese child into school and receiving a quality education,” he said.

A major milestone has been the increase in the number of girls in school – some 34 per cent of the 1.3 million children now in school. During the civil war less than 1 per cent of girls completed their primary education.

Along with promoting enrolment, UNICEF has also been supporting the Government of Southern Sudan in building over 200 new permanent classrooms, rehabilitating nearly 300 existing classrooms, and providing 400 emergency classroom tents while construction gets under way. A 2006 survey showed that only 16 per cent of the nearly 3,000 schools in the region had permanent buildings.

The initiative has also supported the training of 5,000 teachers, and distributed millions of school supplies to students and instructors.

Mr. Chaiban said the focus this year is on constructing more permanent classrooms, continued teacher training and the strengthening of an information management system.

“By working closely with the Government of Southern Sudan and other partners, we are confident that more and more children will enjoy their right to a quality education, delivered in a quality environment,” he stated.