South Sudan has struggled to establish an effective and inclusive education system. The statistics show that 1.8 million children are out of school and 8 percent of schools are damaged, destroyed, occupied or closed.
This trend heavily impacts girls. The Gender Parity Index expresses the ratio of girls to boys in education, and has tracked a trend of fewer girls attending school as they get older. In South Sudan, the female enrollment is 0.92 in pre-primary, 0.68 in primary education and 0.46 in secondary education.
However, since South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, the government has worked diligently to improve education, especially girls’ education, throughout the country. The government prioritized improving education in its development plan. Four major initiatives and governmental policies demonstrate how South Sudan is working to solve the problem of the gender gap in education.
Initiatives to Improve Girls’ Education in South Sudan
- The 2008 Child Act and Transitional Constitution was the first step in South Sudan’s commitment to girls’ education. This act provided for the right to free and compulsory primary education. More importantly, the Child Act allows pregnant women and young mothers to continue their education and not be expelled. This clause is important because many pregnant women and young mothers are subject to discrimination and punishment due to their maternal responsibilities.
- The Alternative Education System provides an education for those who do not have access to formal education, including pregnant girls and women. Approximately 70,000 girls and women utilized this program in 2011. One alternative education program developed specifically for girls is called Community Girls’ Schools, which compresses material from primary years one through four into three years. This program is designed to empower young girls from poor backgrounds.
- Girls’ Education South Sudan (GESS) works to increase the number of educated girls in South Sudan by giving more girls access to quality education. To improve the quality of education, teachers and education managers will be trained to enhance their skills in and out of the classroom. GESS benefits approximately 200,000 girls eligible for primary and secondary education. This program collaborates with the Ministry of General Education and Instruction to create strategies to improve gender equality in the country’s education system.
- Global Partnership for Education (GPE) contributes funding to help remove barriers to girls’ education in South Sudan. It cooperates with other organizations to expand its efforts and works to create an education system based on equality. GPE collaborated with USAID to grant South Sudan $66 million for 2013-2016. One part of this partnership’s goals is to support measures to eliminate gender-based violence. This fund built 25 “girl-friendly” schools to benefit 3,000 girls. Gender sensitivity programs within the schools include separate washroom facilities for girls and teacher training on gender-based violence.
These four programs and policies are not exhaustive of the measures to improve girls’ education in South Sudan. However, it is crucial to note the multitude of the work and the solutions that combine to improve education. With these programs in place, the country will continue to see decreased dropout rates and increased enrollment of girls in the educational system. The relatively new country of South Sudan has come a long way in the fight for gender equality in education. With the continued efforts of these organizations and the global movement for gender equality, its standing in the Gender Parity Index will improve.
– Jenna Walmer