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South Sudan State Offers Free High School

South Sudanese children sit an exam in a high school in Aweil in Northern Bahr el Ghazal state on March 20, 2013. (VOA/Hou Akot Hou)
Officials in Northern Bahr el Ghazal state in South Sudan have unveiled a plan to give a free secondary school education to more than 150 students each year, in a bid to encourage South Sudanese youngsters to continue studying beyond elementary school.

“We are giving the chance to 20 [students] from each county so that they can test the sweetness of Aweil National Secondary School,” Caesar Atem Biajo, head of the state ministry of education, said.

Under the program, which is expected to begin this month, school children who showed academic promise in elementary school will have their high school fees waived and their textbooks and school uniforms paid for.

Biajo said he hopes the program will encourage parents to keep their children in school.

A UNESCO report released in 2011, the year South Sudan became an independent nation, found that less than 10 percent of South Sudanese children go to high school. Among girls, the secondary school enrolment rate is less than six percent.