South Sudan officials receiving tablets at a seminar in Juba. ©UNESCO Juba

South Sudan equipped to face country’s educational challenges

Culmination of the Japan-funded state-level capacity development programme

Having endured a brutal civil war and endemic poverty, the people of South Sudan have high hopes for a better future.  By prioritizing education, their Government is striving to live up to expectations. To help them in this endeavour, the Government of Japan has funded IIEP and UNESCO’s Juba Office to support over 150 state officials working for the Ministry of General Education and Instruction (MoGEI) at state and central levels. The Cooperation programme funded by the Government of Japan is contributing to the national education priorities outlined in the General Education Strategic Plan (GESP).

This eight-month programme culminated in a consolidation seminar with ministry representatives from all 10 states in South Sudan, from 26 to 30 November 2012. Participants were presented with certificates, as well as the tablet computers donated by the Government of Japan as part of the programme package. The equipment will enable ministry officials to remain in touch with resource persons (trained by IIEP), and to get the latest data and information direct from the central MoGEI officials. During the closing ceremony of the programme, Mr Takeshi Akamatsu, Head of the Liaison Office of the Government of Japan (on the photo), expressed his appreciation of the efforts made by all parties to ensure the programme was a success.

Improving education system can only be achieved with better planning capacities

The support of the Government of Japan in South Sudan has been invaluable for this programme, and has enabled state-level officials to conduct in-depth analyses of the education sector in their states; it has also built their capacity to more effectively plan and manage their education systems in challenging circumstances. For example, many schools were either closed or destroyed during decades of war, which resulted in only 15 per cent of South Sudan’s population being able to read and write, as well as over 60 per cent of older children wanting to catch up on their education. The analysis conducted as part of the programme revealed that, in one state, between 80 and 95 per cent of children enrolling in school were over the primary level entry age limit of 6 years. As a result, there are not enough places for the 6 year olds.

In this context, planning and managing the education system in South Sudan faces persistent challenges that require innovative and practical solutions. As Mr Salah Khaled stated, “It is important that those implementing the plan are able to practically fulfil the GESP goals of quality education provision, increased access and equity, increased adult literacy, and increased institutional capacity. This project has aimed to support the government at all levels to do that”.

This programme, implemented by IIEP, contributes to UNESCO’s overall education mandate in the country – namely, building institutional capacities to plan and manage the education system; as well as providing educational materials related to literacy, life skills, psychosocial support, and HIV and AIDS. The programme specifically builds on IIEP’s ongoing assistance in the development of the GESP, which started in December 2010 with funding from UNICEF.

During the closing ceremony of the programme, the Minister for General Education and Instruction, H.E. Honourable Joseph Ukel Abango (in the center on the photo with Mr Salah Khaled, left, and an official receiving its certificate), expressed his appreciation for the work of IIEP and UNESCO when he stated that: “The technical work you have been doing in the states on in-depth analysis of the education system, on costing and projections, will be invaluable at both the state and national levels, as we move forward in implementing our General Education Strategic Plan.” The GESP has now been endorsed by the Global Partnership for Education, which has indicated that South Sudan will receive over $36 million for the education sector over the next three years.