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About 1.7M children out of school in South Sudan

15 January 2015, 14:38 Samuel Kisika

Nairobi – At least 1.7 million children have dropped out of school and are in dire need of education following the war that broke out in South Sudan over a year ago.

According to a survey released by Plan International, a child welfare organization, stated that many children are unable to access learning due to forced displacement, devastating impact of the conflict on their communities while others are in host communities where education resources remain non-existent or overstretched.

Plan’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Roland Angerer said teaching and learning could not continue in the Africa’s youngest country because many schools got occupied by Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) for accommodation thereby forcing children out of school.

“The current emergency has further rundown an already insufficient education system in South Sudan. If the situation continues unchecked these children will not only lose valuable years of study but also be at high risk of early marriage, child labor and exploitation,” warns Angerer.

According to information from the national education in emergency cluster, in addition to children forced out of learning by the conflict, the report shows that an estimated 400 000 children are school drop-outs where about 9 000 children are now soldiers and the number has been growing rapidly.

For instance, most of 1 200 schools in South Sudan’s Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile States, were closed since the onset of the crisis. In Duk County of Jonglei State, for example, all 20 primary schools were closed, leaving an estimated 10,000 children out of school and 160 teachers without a job.

The report reveals that many schools are no longer safe havens because they were either damaged or destroyed by fighting.

“In Leer County of Unity State alone, 15 out of 36 schools were burned and remain unusable. Since the conflict erupted, at least 91 schools have been occupied by armed groups or used as shelters by the displaced,” said Angerer.

Before the conflict, the survey states that the literacy rate of Jonglei State was just 15% and women were less than 5% of the teaching force.

It adds that secondary school enrolment rate is less than 2% countrywide, which demonstrates a lack of primary preparation, thus, most young people will not be equipped with skills necessary to enter the workforce.

An 11-year-old, Beatrice, who like many other South Sudanese children fled their homes due to the conflict, now attends Grade 3 education level at a school built by Plan in Malatuk village of Awerial County in Lakes State.

Beatrice says,“I came from Bor with my relatives. Before the war erupted, I used to study in a good classroom but when the war started, our classrooms were destroyed and our teachers ran away.”

Also read: South Sudan war costing billions, economists warn

“My relatives and I ran to this place. When we came here, I was told to go to school but I could not see any school because there were only trees. I had nothing to write on. We used to write on the ground and study under the trees,” she added.

Beatrice further says, “Sometimes when it rains we don’t have classes and even nowhere to write. I almost lost interest in school but now with such a classroom it feels safe and it looks like a school. The problem is classrooms are a few and we have to learn in shifts. I wish we had more classes.”

Her school is one of four Primary Schools for children constructed by Plan in Awerial County. The schools not only provide a safe and protective learning environment but also serve as platforms for other interventions such as child protection, health, nutrition and water and sanitation.

However, Angerer asserted that access to services offered by plan in its schools is limited because all schools were closed.

Plan is working in South Sudan to meet its Education in Emergency Cluster agenda through the campaign “Education Cannot Wait” which aims at raising awareness and motivates donor agencies to dedicate more funds towards the urgent education needs of children in the country.

“One lost generation is enough. We need to provide the space that children can learn and study even when the conditions around them are severe. Only education will give them the tools and opportunities to grow up and build a better and more peaceful society,” said Angerer.

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- MyNews24

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