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

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid