JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN— The South Sudanese government has launched a program to improve the skills of the country's teachers, fewer than five percent of whom have the necessary skills to teach in the country's schools, according to education officials.
Lucy Charles Jua has been teaching since 1988 in Western Bahr el Ghazal state, in northwestern South Sudan. She traveled to Juba to take part in the four-day training because, she said, she knows there are areas in which she has room for improvement.
“Before I don’t know the sound and the phonics but now I know what is sound and the sound of letters A, B, M," she said.
"So I am now ready to go and teach the other teachers so that they can give the message to the children.”
John Kwai, who works at a teacher training center in Jonglei state, said the main problem lies in the fact that most teachers are themselves poorly educated, and can only pass on to their students what they know.
“Literacy has never been taught well in schools. Teachers teach writing and reading at a very low level,” he said.
Only three percent of South Sudanese teachers have gone beyond secondary school in their own educations, the education ministry has said.
Eighty teachers from all 10 states participated in the training program, which was organized by the South Sudan Teacher Education Program (SSTEP) and funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The course has been run once before.
Participants said that, even if better training is provided, the teaching profession in South Sudan will not attract qualified applicants unless conditions in the schools improve, both for teachers and students.
Among conditions that need a fix are a lack of textbooks and very low pay, critics say, noting that teachers make 360 South Sudanese Pounds per month, which is less than $100.