South Sudan, planning education key to its future

03 November 2016


Photo credit: UNHCR/Andrew McConnell

Decades of war have left an indelible mark on South Sudan’s education system. Some 1.8 million children and youth are currently out-of-school. For those in school, a severe lack of qualified teachers and damaged infrastructure have diminished educational quality.

However, a blueprint for the country’s education system is striving to change the course of education for all of South Sudan’s children and youth. Known as the General Education Strategic Plan (GESP), it will set the policy direction and education targets for the next five years (2017-2021).

“We are conscious of our history and we don’t want it to be repeated,” said the Minister of General Education and Instruction, Deng Deng Hoc Yai, during a visit to IIEP-UNESCO.
In his view, a robust education system must cater for everyone: “irrespective of who a child is, whether they are a boy or a girl, and no matter where they live, in a rural area or a city.”

What are the challenges facing education in South Sudan today?

An interview with the Minister of Education.



Addressing immediate and long-term needs

The plan aims to balance the immediate needs of the country for a transitional period of two years with South Sudan’s long-term aspirations. Taking into account the effects of the current political-economic crisis, the first part of the plan will address emergency and humanitarian challenges. Looking to the future, this will take place within the framework of the government’s longer-term objectives – covering the provision of safe, equitable, quality education for all children and young people in the country – over the next five years, and beyond. 

Creating safe learning environments

One of the immediate needs is the creation of additional safe learning spaces. “Some schools do not have roofs anymore, some schools lost windows or doors,” said the Minister. “So part of the work is to renovate the existing infrastructure, partly to have new additional infrastructure, and also have internally displaced people and refugees return to their home villages and towns and be able to resume school.”

Rectifying the current shortage of qualified teachers is also high on the agenda. In 2015, only 41 per cent of teachers were qualified in the profession, according to the Education Sector Analysis (ESA), which provides the evidence base for an Education Sector Plan (ESP). While this represented a 13 percentage point increase since 2009, the new plan will aim to place more qualified teachers by ensuring teacher salaries and promoting new training opportunities. 

Is the plan achievable?

The government has involved a broad spectrum of stakeholders and international partners from the onset in the plan preparation process. This will ultimately help promote national ownership for improved implementation and results. However, its foremost condition for success remains stability in the country.

“Stability in all of its aspects,” stressed Undersecretary Michael Lopuke Lotyam. “To ensure the implementation of the GESP it will require financial resources. We also require peace; security is paramount.”

It is also envisioned that the plan itself, which has integrated crisis-sensitive planning techniques, can contribute to breaking the cycle of instability.

“One of the issues that we are trying to address is the prevention of further conflicts by having equitable distribution of learning resources that ensures equitable access to quality education for all,” said the Minister. “By serving all, then we will not have sections of our society that are discontent with the education system who can then rise against the education system or cause conflicts.”