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S Sudan conflict disrupts school calendar

08 January 2014, 14:25 Samuel Kisika

Nairobi - Child rights organization, Plan International (Plan) has warned that prolonged conflict in South Sudan could cause massive disruption to the school calendar, affecting efforts to rebuild the country’s education system.

Giving the findings in a press release, Plan stated that the fighting in the world’s youngest country erupted on 15 December, pitting army units loyal to President Salva Kiir against rebel forces where more than 1 000 people, mostly civilians, have been reported killed and an estimated 200 000 internally displaced. 

Plan’s Acting Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Hazel Nyathi, said that if the situation remains unchecked, thousands of children would remain out of school when the new term begins next month.

Nyathi said more than 100,000 children have been affected by the conflict and even some of them separated from their parents.

“Many of these children will remain out of school when the education calendar opens,” observed Nyathi.

“Our teams have been to Awerial State, which is 140 kilometers from Juba and home to about 84,000 people who have fled from Bor in Jongei State which has been under heavy shelling from both government and rebel forces. The situation there is dire,” he added. 

Nyathi noted that most families in the conflict-bound regions sleep in the open; children fetch water, bath and wash from the same river. He said that the hygiene and sanitation situation is critical with open defecation happening everywhere, thus, need for psychosocial support as many children and youth are traumatized from on-going conflict and state of displacement.

He reiterated that Plan's Sudan Country Director, Gyan Adhikari, had assured that Plan teams will be moving into Awerial State soon to offer child protection support, water sanitation and hygiene services as well psychosocial support to affected children.

A survey released in July 2012 by Overseas Development Institute (ODI) on South Sudan’s education found that less than 10 percent of the population had completed primary school education. It is also believed that the youngest nation has the worst literacy rate in the world, lagging behind Mali and Niger.

Since independence in 2011, the South Sudanese government has been steadily rebuilding its education system by allocating a large share of its national budget to education. In addition, aid agencies have been channeling funds into education to help shore-up the levels of literacy in the oil-rich state.

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