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A comprehensive new World Bank Report on the status of South Sudan’s education notes strong progress, including a doubling of primary school enrollment in just four years, but also some daunting challenges as Africa’s newest nation strives to make up lost ground.
According to the report, entitled “Education in the Republic of South Sudan: Status and Challenges for a New System”, about 700,000 more children enrolled in primary school between 2005 and 2009. A child in South Sudan now has a 60 percent chance of receiving some schooling, up from 40% a decade ago.
However, South Sudan remains far behind most other African countries in terms of achieving universal primary education. Challenges include enrolling a million out-of-school children, most of whom live in poor rural areas; bringing down the steep 60 percent dropout rate in lower primary school; and improving the quality of learning. Overcrowded primary classrooms are also a serious problem, housing 129 children on average.
“This new report shows that South Sudan is working hard to build an inclusive education system in the face of huge unmet needs,” said Bella Bird, World Bank Country Director for South Sudan. “To catch up with the rest of Africa, South Sudan needs consistent and higher investment for more classrooms for higher grades, more schools in rural areas, more trained teachers as well as more equitable and efficient allocation of resources for education across the country.”
The report finds that only three out of five teachers receives a salary from the government, with an average of 80 children to each salaried teacher. Government-funded teachers are distributed unevenly, from 84 percent of all teachers in Eastern Equatoria to 32 percent in Jonglei, where the majority are volunteers.
As in many other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, the quality of student learning in South Sudan is reportedly weak. Sixth-graders in a sample of mostly urban schools in four states answered test questions correctly 35% of the time in language and just 29 percent of the time in mathematics.
“On the bright side, South Sudan has a golden opportunity today to pay attention to the quality of learning in schools, so that education delivers stronger and not weaker results as the system expands to take in more children in future,” said Ritva Reinikka, World Bank Director for Human Development in Africa.
The report also finds that adult education forms a large part of South Sudan’s education system, with more than 200,000 enrolled. A variety of learning programs are offered, including some targeted to active and demobilized SPLA members and other groups. However, over two million adults are yet to attain literacy.
“The report is a landmark reference on the education sector in South Sudan, and is particularly useful at this turning point for the new nation as it unearths statistics that are critical for a more complete perspective than we had before,” said William Osafo, Team Leader for USAID’s education program in South Sudan.
“As a major donor, USAID has been able to directly apply the report’s analysis to its planning for future programs.”
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