The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today welcomed the recently independent country of South Sudan -- which has some of the worst indicators for education levels in the world -- as its newest Member State.
At a ceremony today in Paris, where UNESCO is holding its general conference at the agency''s headquarters, the flag of South Sudan was raised alongside those of UNESCO''s other 193 Member States. The ceremony took place two days after South Sudan completed the procedures for ratifying the agency''s constitution.
In her welcome message UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova noted that the country of eight million people faces "immense challenges," but pledged that the agency would support the nation to strengthen its education system and train teachers and other education professionals.
UNESCO, through its International Institute for Educational Planning, will work with the UN Children''s Fund (UNICEF) to draw up a plan to help South Sudanese authorities tackle their major education needs.
The latest global monitoring report on education from UNESCO, released in June, found that South Sudan is last in the world league table for enrolment in secondary education and second-last for net enrolment in primary-level education. Textbooks are in short supply, usable classrooms are unavailable and there are not nearly enough trained teachers.
Women and girls are particularly badly affected. Just eight per cent of women in South Sudan know how to read and write and there are estimated to be only 400 girls in the last grade of secondary school across the impoverished country.