South Sudan’s education indicators remain among the worst in the world, despite increases in school enrolment over the past few years. It is estimated that more than one million primary school aged children, mostly from rural areas, are not in school, while the few schools that do exist are not conducive to learning. Low rates of primary school completion and high gender, geographic and wealth disparities pose enormous challenges to the development of South Sudan.
The adult literacy rate stands at a mere 27 per cent, and 70 per cent of children aged 6–17 years have never set foot in a classroom. The completion rate in primary schools is less than 10 per cent, one of the lowest in the world. Gender equality is another challenge, with only 33 per cent of girls in schools.
The graph below gives an indication of the drop out and completion rate from primary grade 1 through to primary 8, gives an indication of the transition to secondary and the survival rate until the last year of secondary education. It is worth noting that only 13% of primary schools offer the full primary cycle, from grade 1 to 8.
Access to pre-primary and secondary education is even worse than primary education.Only two per cent of pre-school aged children are in early childhood development programmes and a mere 44,027 children are in secondary schools, compared with 1.4 million in primary schools.
This situation is compounded by the increase in the demand for education by returnee children who have been arriving in the country since late 2010. The already stretched and under-resourced system now has to contend with additional children, placing a further strain on the limited resources.
Education is one of the main priorities for the people of South Sudan. Recent studies show that communities see education as the most important peace dividend. Youth voices also emphasize the need to be educated.The ‘Go to School’ initiative, launched by the government in April 2006, has been the biggest achievement to date, enabling the enrolment of more than 1.6 million, up from an estimated 343,000 before the signing of Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005 that ended decades of civil war.
More on education and gender equality