News / Africa

South Sudan's Lost Generations Determined to Catch up on Education

Children gather for morning Assembly at the Marol Academy, Sourthern Sudan, Nov 5, 2010.Children gather for morning Assembly at the Marol Academy, Sourthern Sudan, Nov 5, 2010.
x
Children gather for morning Assembly at the Marol Academy, Sourthern Sudan, Nov 5, 2010.
Children gather for morning Assembly at the Marol Academy, Sourthern Sudan, Nov 5, 2010.
Hannah McNeish
In newly-independent South Sudan, students whose education was lost to five decades of civil war are coming back to their ABCs in the hope of building a better future for their new country.  World Literacy Day is September 8.

At Lomuku Primary School in Yei, South Sudan, students perched on thin planks of wood for benches recite English words from a blackboard.

The gloomy, dirt-floor hut is packed, not with children, but with adults who are determined to catch up with the education that civil war took away.

The director of fire brigades in Yei, Joseph Laku Henry, says he was in primary school when war broke out.  He joined the Sudan People’s Liberation Army when he was 15 years old, a year after the second civil war began in 1983.  A 2005 peace declaration ended the fighting and paved the way for South Sudan’s independence last year.

But Henry says that despite freedom, generations have lost the chance to shape their nation because of a lack of education.

Henry says South Sudan has the highest rate of illiteracy in Africa and that it is time to reduce it.  He says in war, every child, mother and father has gone without an education, and so now the time has come to educate the people.

Only 10 percent of the population has finished primary school, almost three quarters of the nation is illiterate and only 16 percent of women can read and write.  A 15-year-old girl in South Sudan is more likely to die in childbirth than finish her education.

Mary Aker, the wife of a soldier, says the only way to ensure that children grow up healthy and wise is to educate women.

“Learning is good," said Aker. "I want to know everything.  Like if I learn, I want to teach my children to be healthy, and my home to be healthy too.”

Aker says people often attribute South Sudan’s freedom to years of struggle by bush fighters and overlook women, but she says they should be rewarded for their sacrifice too.

“The women are also part of human beings," she said. "The woman educator can teach people many things, like if you have a job, you could help your husband.  The women is productive in the war here.  Many people, the woman have protected - this is good.  People are the same in mind.  But the duties also, if you have suffered, you can become educated [like a man]”.

Educated adults are more likely to send their children to school, breaking the cycle of illiteracy in families and communities.

The United Nations Children's Fund recently says that more than 70 percent of children ages 6 to 13 in South Sudan have never been in a classroom.

Headmaster Michael Adier Kuol says that even though schools in the country’s three southern states are much better than those in war-ravaged states nearer the border with Sudan, they still face many challenges.

At Lomuku, school enrollments have almost doubled in one year.  Parents have pitched in to try to build more classrooms, but there is only enough money to buy local materials for more shacks, not solid structures.

Another challenge is teacher salaries.  All 14 teachers in this school are untrained and only have primary school education.

In January, during a transport dispute with Sudan, landlocked South Sudan shut down oil production that brings in 98 percent of the country's revenues.  Aid agencies fear that one of the biggest casualties of the oil shut down will be education.

Headmaster Kuol says that even in this breadbasket state and major trading hub, teachers cannot survive on community handouts that have greater symbolic than real value.

“The government is unable to pay all the teachers of South Sudan," said Kuol. "In the school I am teaching now, the payment of the teachers is done by the parents . The parents are the ones raising money every month so that their children are taught.  It is very little really; it cannot really maintain a teacher, but it is the faith that is working for the teachers.  They have the spirit of being patriotic, nationalistic.  So they are only 200 South Sudanese pounds, which is maybe $50, or even less than $50 per teacher per month.”

But Kuol says schools here are better than in other states, where children are taught under the trees and many are kept at home because parents worry about the lack of security.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs