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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid