News / Africa

South Sudan's Ticking Youth Time-Bomb

South Sudan Vice-President Riek Machar said his government will have to pay more attention to the plight of the youth if the new nation is to avoid the popular uprisings happening in the Arab World.

Project Education Sudan
Project Education Sudan

A new study says the challenges facing youth in South Sudan will prove a major obstacle to its development as an independent nation.

The report used Central Equatoria as a case study, and found that 38 percent of males and 58 percent of females, aged 15 to 19, have attended school.

South Sudan Vice-President Riek Machar attended the release of the report in Juba. He said his government will have to pay more attention to the plight of the youth if the new nation is to avoid the popular uprisings happening in the Arab World.

“Youths is engine of change, an engine of development, we have seen it in our lifetime when we created the SPLM/SPLA,” he said.  “Without youth we wouldn’t have done it. Which we have seen also in the rest of the world, in particular now in the North and Middle East, changes are coming about because of youth and therefore any government will be interested to cater problems of youth.  If it is a problem of employment, the government must be there to address such a problem.”

Researcher Natalie Forcier, from the organization Population Council, that created the report, said one reason that girls have even lower education rates than boys is because many girls are illegally married off and forced to quit school before they reach adulthood.

“Some of our key findings is that we have a lot of proportion of girls who are married before the legal age of 18, according to the 2008 Child Act,” she said.  “The majority of those in school are not married, they know very little about young adults and reproductive choices and little is done about early marriages. It is things like health, poverty and education.”

The 2008 South Sudan census shows that 40 percent of women were married before turning 18 years of age, while 11percent were married before the age of 15.

Abak Rajab of the Coalition of Southern Sudan Civil Society Organizations (CASU) said changing these statistics will require changing how people think.

“On the issue of drop out of young girls in schools in Southern Sudan, I believe this is mainly a cultural issue,” he said.  “We have a belief in most of our communities that a girl at the age of 14 is already mature and so can easily engage in sexual acts and when it comes to pregnancy, you find that they are not ready.”

Abak also blames the South Sudan government for not educating the population on the child act, which outlaws the marriage of girls under the age of 18.

“The government is not committing resources to enlighten the people on the law of the Child Act,” he said. “Because this law has to be popularized among the people, especially the local community leaders like chiefs.  These are the people who have direct contact with the population. We have in some states the clash of cultural law and the national law.”

Isaiah Choi, of the Southern Sudan Center for Census, Statistics, and Evaluation, says surveys like this are necessary so that the government can plan proper social policies for the new country.

“The government can only address those issues when they are identified,” he said.  “The problems of the youths may not necessarily be the same from the rural areas or in urban. They differ from one location to another, even among Counties there are bound to be differences. So unless we are able to assess their needs, the problems that are facing them, the government will not be able to make and form decisions.  It is going to be an eye opener for our government not only at GoSS level, but at the state level, as well as at our county levels.”

Many youth in South Sudan are uneducated in part because of the more than 20 years of civil war with the north of Sudan, which made a normal childhood largely impossible. Many youth, even children, participated directly in the conflict as combatants.

The Minister of Youth, Sports and recreation Mr. Makwac Teng agrees that his government needs to do more.

“The Youth of South Sudan constitute a large part of the population and they have suffered gravely from the war and indeed were the primary actors and victims at the same time,” he said. “The scars of wars are still visible on them both physically and morally. The government of South Sudan has a responsibility to develop and empower the youths to allow them live to their full potential and make the effective contribution in all spheres of life, as individuals and as well as members of the wider society.”

The report argued that a low level of education among the youth will not only restrict their employment opportunities, but also leave the young men particularly vulnerable for recruitment into militias due to a lack of other opportunities.

Minister Teng said sports can help pull youth from negative influences.

“Through sports, the youth will acquire important skills for life, discipline, confidence, leadership, tolerance and cooperation,” he said.  “Youth participation in sports will not only reduce the likelihood of disease, but indeed serve as an effective tool for youth mobilization against harmful habits such as drug abuse, crime and other anti-social habits.”

Youth in South Sudan make up 70 percent of the population, yet they have almost no representation in the state institutions, nor are there many jobs for them to find.

Already, disenchanted militia commanders have found it easy to recruit young men to fight in their rebellions.  Often, all the youth have to be promised is food and the promise of a future position in the army, and they are ready to risk their lives fighting.

You May Like

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs