UNICEF and UNESCO welcome the decision to reopen schools in South Sudan

21 September 2020
A boy writing in a book
UNICEFSouthSudan/Ryeng

JUBA, SOUT SUDAN 22 SEPTEMBER 2020- UNICEF and UNESCO welcome the decision of the Government to start reopening of schools in South Sudan. The reopening will happen in phases. Phase 1 includes the candidate classes, Primary 8 and Senior 4, and will start the first week of October 2020. Phase 2 includes all schools and grades and will coincide with the start of the academic year in February 2021. All schools have been closed since March 2020 due to COVID-19, keeping 2 million children out of school. This comes on top of the 2.2 million children out of school before the pandemic hit South Sudan.

Scientific evidence shows children are not super spreaders of COVID-19 and are the least affected by it in the region, with a mere 2.5 per cent of COVID-19 cases among children of school going age (5-18years, WHO). At the same time, we have seen growing evidence of the negative impact closed classrooms have had on children, including abuse, exploitation, child marriage and early pregnancies. Children are safer inside the school walls than outside.

“This is a great day for children in South Sudan who can soon resume their learning and continue planning for their future,” said Mohamed Ag Ayoya, UNICEF South Sudan Representative. “The last seven months have been a huge blow for learning but also for protecting children from abuse and exploitation; therefore, we are really pleased with the Government’s decision to reopen schools.”

Together with the Ministry of General Education and Instruction, UNICEF, UNESCO and education partners have made a plan for a safe reopening of schools. The plan includes improved water provision to schools, repair of water infrastructure, soap distribution, handwashing stations and sanitary kits. The students and the teachers will also be provided with washable face masks. Social mobilizers will be raising awareness on the reopening of schools and encouraging parents to send their children to school. The longer children stay out of school, the harder it is to get them back to the classrooms.

“We don’t have a school day to lose, the children have already lost so many,” said Mr. Julius Banda, UNESCO Representative in South Sudan. “I understand that parents might be nervous, but I urge all caregivers to trust that their children are safer at school. I know you want what is best for your children, and right now that is sending them back to school.”

The current reopening plan will cost just under USD 16.4 million, while only USD 7 million is available through the Global Partnership for Education. UNICEF and UNESCO are urging donors and partners to step forward to support the reopening of schools in South Sudan. We would also like to take the opportunity to thank the education partners who have supported the distant learning programme in this difficult time, and especially the EU/ECHO, the Government of Norway, UKAid and USAID.

Media Contacts

Yves Willemot
Chief of Communication
UNICEF South Sudan
Tel: +211 91 216 2888

About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work in South Sudan visit: www.unicef.org/southsudan

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