Progress is being made though education in the Republic of South Sudan. Organizations working to set up education systems such as USAID, the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation (VADF), and UNICEF have made radical progress, raising the enrolled number of primary school students from 300,000 in 2000 to 1.4 million in 2010. Progress such as this is imperative during South Sudan's fragile first years as a nation.
On July 9, 2011, the Republic of South Sudan celebrated its first independence day after decades of war that left millions of South Sudanese dead, injured, or displaced. South Sudan had not seen complete peace since prior to its independence from the UK in 1956.1 Although the occasion called a week of joyful celebration, the Southern Sudanese all agree it is time to get to work.
Their first task and most pressing issue is education. With the help of UNICEF, President Kiir of South Sudan pledged to construct 30 primary schools and 4 secondary schools.2 Education has been and is first and foremost in the minds of the Sudanese. A common saying among the Lost Boys of Sudan (a nickname for the orphaned refugee boys) is: "Education is my mother and my father." The country recognizes education as a foundation for building a successful new nation. Among government workers, 1 in every 4 lacks a formal education. Unless education is made available, the government will not be able to sustain even these literacy rates. As of now, only 27% of its population is literate.3
Prior to recent years, most education was done in an informal setting under the shade of a tree. As many as 100 students would crowd around 1 teacher, using their fingers and the dirt on the ground as a pen and paper. This type of education leaves much to be desired.USAID (United States Agency in International Development) is making monumental progress in raising literacy in South Sudan. The agency has aided in the construction of 140 primary schools and 5 secondary schools.4
USAID as well as VADF (Valentino Achak Deng Foundation) have turned to focus on female education. The Valentino Achak Deng Foundation completed the construction of their Marial Bai Secondary School in 2009. It is the first fully-functioning secondary school in Marial Bai, Sudan as well as in the surrounding areas. After a successful year, the foundation constructed a girl's dormitory. The housing facility allows girls to attend the school regularly. Upon completion of this building, the enrollment of girls in the school has nearly doubled.5 USAID has also made efforts to enable girls to finish their education. Women who would leave school due to female inconveniences are now given "comfort kits" that allow them to attend classes without worries. The Kajo- Keji Teacher's College which receives a grant from USAID has housing for mothers attending schools. Their housing facilities offer apartments that include a second room for their female students' children. This type of accommodation empowers women who are victims of gender inequality and abandonment.6
The Republic of South Sudan is progressing closer and closer to accomplishing universal education as well as equality for women. The strides made towards education show hope for the blossoming country. With the help and support of governments and organizations world-wide, progress in the Republic of South Sudan will only grow. The rising availability of education in the area is a bright light in an area that has seen only darkness for so long.
1: In a New Nation: Building the Education Basics; USAID; Namadi, Jane; Ezra, Simon <http://www.usaid.gov/press/frontlines/fl_sep11/FL_sep11_EDU_SUDAN.html>
2: UNICEF Reiterates Commitment to Education; Government of the Republic of South Sudan; Suleiman, Gisma Shaban <http://www.goss-online.org/magnoliaPublic/en/news.html>
3: In a New Nation: Building the Education Basics; USAID; Namadi, Jane; Ezra, Simon <http://www.usaid.gov/press/frontlines/fl_sep11/FL_sep11_EDU_SUDAN.html>
4: In a New Nation: Building the Education Basics; USAID; Namadi, Jane; Ezra, Simon <http://www.usaid.gov/press/frontlines/fl_sep11/FL_sep11_EDU_SUDAN.html>
5: Valentino Achak Deng Foundation, <http://www.valentinoachakdeng.org/community_development.php>
6: In a New Nation: Building the Education Basics; USAID; Namadi, Jane; Ezra, Simon <http://www.usaid.gov/press/frontlines/fl_sep11/FL_sep11_EDU_SUDAN.html>