UNICEF is urging parents to send their children back to school

UNICEF wishes teachers and students all the best as schools across South Sudan reopen on Monday.

28 April 2021
UNICEF at a school in Juba with students
UNICEFSouthSudan/Solomon

Juba, South Sudan, 29 April 2021 – As schools across South Sudan are reopening Monday 3rd of May, all parents and caregivers should send their children to school, UNICEF said today. Most schools have been closed for 15 months due to COVID-19 restrictions. Only candidate classes could resume in October last year. 

“I would like to congratulate the Ministry of General Education and Instruction on the decision to reopen schools, a good decision for children,” said UNICEF South Sudan Representative Hamida Lasseko. “We wish all the students and all the teachers the best of luck.”

Before the pandemic, 2.8 million children were out of school due to poverty, inequalities, cultural beliefs and nomadic lifestyles. With the COVID-19 closure, an additional two million children were sent home. UNICEF knows from previous experiences that the longer children stay out of school, the harder it is to get them back. With one of the highest out-of-school ratios in the world, South Sudan cannot afford to have more children missing out on education and no effort should be spared to ensure students return to finish their education.

UNICEF remains particularly concerned about girls as the enrolment rate for females was very low before the pandemic, and there are multiple reports about the increase in child marriage and early pregnancies during the school closure. Many of these girls might not return to school.

“My appeal is to all parents in South Sudan; please send your sons and daughters to school. I’m calling upon religious and community leaders to use their influence to mobilize children to return to their classrooms. I’m calling upon Members of Parliament and Government leaders to encourage their community members to send children to school,” said Lasseko.

Ensuring children are going back to school has important benefits beyond academic learning. Schools are safe places for children where they are protected from exploitation, abuse and from harmful cultural practices such as child marriage and early pregnancies. Friendship and a sense of community at school are essential for the wellbeing of the most vulnerable children who can also access psychosocial support from teachers and peers. Schools allow children to access basic services including clean water, health and in many cases also food.

UNICEF is supporting the South Sudan Ministry of General Education and Instruction in the reopening of schools by providing soap to improve hygiene and close to 900,000 face masks will be distributed to children and teachers. 200 new boreholes will be drilled, ensuring clean drinking water for the students and the surrounding communities. 2.7 million textbooks based on the new South Sudan curriculum have been printed and 1.9 million of them are already distributed. Not everything will be ready for 3 May, but that should not stop children from returning.

“Getting children back is job number one, the rest we can solve as we go,” said Lasseko. “Knowing children and schools are not drivers of the pandemic, it is paramount that children return to school also when all standards cannot be met immediately.”

UNICEF would like to thank its many education partners for all the support given to education throughout this difficult period, including Canada, EU/ECHO, Germany, Norway, Sweden, the Global Partnership for Education, UK Aid 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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