3 April – In a massive campaign to double the number of children in school as part of peace dividend, hundreds of thousands of children will go to school for the first time in Southern Sudan. The massive United Nations-backed campaign targets a system ruined by two decades of civil war where only 22 per cent of an estimated 2.2 million youngsters are enrolled in primary school.
UNICEF says their campaign aims to more than double the number of children in primary school during the course of the school year, which starts today; deliver over 3.8 million textbooks and teachers’ guides and basic school supplies for up to 1.6 million children, including 6 million exercise books and 1.6 million pencil sharpeners.
Over 1,500 new classrooms are being constructed and accelerated training is underway for teachers and classroom facilitators. Public awareness campaigns are mobilizing children and parents to send their children to school, especially girls. There are four times more boys than girls in school and only about 1 per cent of girls complete primary education.
“Beyond the waters of the Nile, oil and minerals, Southern Sudan has a precious – an infinite – natural resource: the minds, the determination and the potential of her people, especially her children,” UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah said at Saturday’s launch of the ‘Go To School’ Campaign in Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan.
Survey teams are roaming the vast region observing even the smallest schools to determine exactly how many children are attending and what are the conditions. About 8,600 teachers, the majority untrained volunteers, cover approximately 2,000 schools. Many of these “schools” consist of little more than a blackboard propped under a tree.
Education is the key to future peace and prosperity in the region, where a 2005 accord between the Government and rebels ended a war that uprooted some 4.5 million people from their homes beyond its terrible death toll.
The effort is led by the Government of Southern Sudan with the support of UN agencies, donors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and communities. Some $22 million has been received so far, with a similar amount still required to complete the targets for 2006.