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Youth journalist reports on the problem of school fees in Southern Sudan

© UNICEF-NYHQ/2009/Kavanagh
Michael Lual, 17, is a student at Juba Day School in Southern Sudan. Despite a government promise that top students would receive help with their school fees, Michael and his family are still struggling to pay for his education.

In the run-up to the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child – a landmark international agreement on the basic human rights of all children – UNICEF is featuring a series of stories about progress made and challenges that remain. Here is one of those stories.

JUBA, Southern Sudan, 13 July 2009 – Michael Lual is worried that this might be his last year of school. The 17-year-old is one of the top students at Juba Day School in Juba, Southern Sudan, but he is struggling to pay his school fees.

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Michael's father died during Sudan's civil war, and he now lives in Juba with his uncle so that he can attend a better school. His five siblings live in a village outside Juba with their mother.

Michael and his teachers say that although the Government of Southern Sudan announced a policy last year to reward the best students with free schooling, Michael and his classmates are still waiting for financial aid to continue their education.

Right to quality education
Article 28 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) states that children have the right to a quality education and should be encouraged to continue to the highest academic level they can achieve. It is an ideal that is difficult to attain in a low-income, post-conflict region such as Southern Sudan.

Some of Michael's friends can't afford to go to school at all. One of them, Peter Ding-Ding, told Michael that he has to choose between paying school fees and finding enough for his mother and siblings to eat. Peter stopped going to school after finishing his primary education.

Even Michael sometimes finds that he has less food on his plate when he is saving for the next round of school fees. "It's hard to study when you're hungry," he says. "The government should give money to the top students because [by doing so] it can encourage others."

Juba radio workshop
In June, Michael was one of the participants in a week-long radio production workshop for 10 young people from Juba. UNICEF Radio – in partnership with UNICEF's Back on Track Programme on Education in Emergencies and Post-Crisis Transition, the UNICEF Southern Sudan office and Southern Sudan Radio – conducted the workshop with five boys and five girls chosen from local schools.

The youths learned how to record, edit, write and produce a radio piece of their own.

Michael chose to produce a piece about school fees. Southern Sudan Radio broadcast it on 16 June to commemorate the Day of the African Child.

Young people’s perspectives
UNICEF Radio and the education in emergencies programme will be conducting a series of similar workshops in other countries in the coming months. Their aim: to bring young people's perspectives into the debate around education in emergencies and post-crisis situations – and to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the CRC.

Meanwhile, UNICEF's Southern Sudan office is working with Southern Sudan Radio to involve the new radio journalists in its youth radio programmes, empowering young people by giving them the chance to broadcast their voices throughout the region.




June 2009: Michael Lual, 17, reports on families struggling to pay school fees in Southern Sudan.
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