Efforts to ensure school children access national exams are keeping career dreams alive
What it takes UNICEF and education partners to preserve career aspirations for school children across South Sudan
It’s early morning in Bor Town, the Jonglei State Capital, and hundreds of primary students flood the streets - many excited to sit their Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE).
For Abiel Elijah Deng, a 16-year-old St. Andrew Primary eight student, sitting for these exams means a lot, “For me to change my community where the rule of law isn’t respected, it’s to become a lawyer - and to achieve this, I need to sit for national exams in order to progress academically. That is how important these exams are to me.”
Abiel is one of the 60,000 primary students that sat for 2022 Primary Leaving Examinations – tests that UNICEF is supporting throughout the country through the Ministry of General Education and instruction (MOGEI).
There has been more than a 12 per cent rise in the number of students registered for the exams from previous years.
In the past, many school children across the country missed their national exams due to conflict, floods, poor road infrastructure, delayed delivery, and general security concerns, among others
After finishing her third examination paper, Abiel Elijah, emphasizes the importance of ensuring all children accessed the national examinations.
I am happy to have sat for my national exams. Imagine, if I was home, I would have not known how the world is developing, I would not be able to speak English well, and I would not one day make it to a higher level of being a leader
“This only happens when there is access to education, which is determined by sitting for national exams, because that is what shows your academic progress and success in life. I am happy that next year, I will be going to another grade, isn’t that an achievement?” asked Abiel with a smile.
Ayuen Abraham Panchol, a 13-year-old St. Andrew primary eight student, who eventually wants to study political science, discusses the national exams success, especially the setting which she says were based on the new curriculum.
We are all aware of our country’s economic hardships. I am glad for the efforts towards ensuring children have access to the national exams.
UNICEF, with support from Global Partnership for Education (GPE) is supporting capacity building for the National Examination Council (NEC) to align national examinations with the new curriculum.
School Administration’s remain committed
In his speech while addressing the candidates ahead of their first exam, Jacob Nhial, the Principal of another Bor based Primary School, St. Andrew commends the efforts of UNICEF and its partners in supporting the delivery and administration of the examinations.
“Education is a child’s fundamental human right but this can't be fulfilled when students don’t attend the national exams. And as a teacher, we feel our efforts have not gone in vain because students are now able to evaluate what we taught them. Additionally, seeing them move to different grades makes us happy,” said Nhial.
Previously delivery and administration of exams was vulnerable. Since UNICEF’s intervention, this has improved a lot.
What it takes to deliver exams
Ayuen David, Jonglei State Education Officer, emphasizes the difficulty in coordinating and delivering national exams to hard-to-reach areas in the Greater Jonglei Region, “Coordinating a time bound and highly guarded commodity like the examinations - and more so moving it to insecure and inaccessible areas - is quite challenging. The delivery required commitments, it required coordination and advocacy skills, to be able to convince the partners to take up their crucial roles,” said Ayuen.
UNICEF and partners supported MOGEI with coordination and safe and secure delivery of National Exams to the schools – to ensure thousands of children across South Sudan could further their education.
Exams were delivered and administered to all 10 States and 3 Administrative areas with UNICEF’s support focusing on schools in hard to reach and remote areas
In conjunction with MOGEI, in the Juba Protection of Civilian’s (POC) Camp, exams were delivered for the first time in the camp schools allowing children access to sit exams without having to attend to schools elsewhere in the city.
Students relish the opportunity to advance their education
Abuol Alier, a 16-year-old primary eight student from Bright Academy Primary School, who dreams of being a lawyer, said having sat for the national exams was the successful conclusion of her eight-year primary journey.
“After sitting for my exams, I felt excited more than I could ever feel. For eight years, I have been studying and now being able to sit for examinations and move to the next level is something my family will be proud of. For the past years, I never knew the importance of education but after joining primary eight, I realized the significance of education,” she said.
As a child, one of my basic rights is education, I can come to school every day, attend classes and do other routines, but without national exams, I wouldn’t progress education-wise.
Another Bright Academy classmate expressed similar views. Thon Achiek said having sat for the national exams will make his parents realize the importance of education, and help him achieve his dream of becoming a mechanical engineer.
As a child, my right to education is now being respected. If these exams were not provided, we would have repeated classes and others can even quit school, that will lead to school dropouts, but now when other kids see us doing exams, they will feel encouraged to come to school.
UNICEF supported the roll out of the national exams through its global thematic funds. It also recognizes the generous support of the European Union, the African Development Bank, the Global Partnership for Education, KFW, and the Norwegian Embassy who are supporting the Ministry of General Education and Instruction in improving access to quality education for children across the country. This is being achieved through widespread programmes training teachers, constructing and rehabilitating classrooms and schools, providing teaching and learning materials, WASH facilities in schools, organizing back-to-school campaigns, and mobilizing parents and communities to send their children to school.