Examination papers by air

UNICEF flies examination papers to remote areas in South Sudan

Helene Sandbu Ryeng
A girl at a desk looking up into the camera
15 February 2021

“I’m not worried about the exams; I think I will do well. English is my favorite subject and I hope to do well on my exam," Marsa Abak (19) says confidently. In just two days, the exam week for primary eight students starts in Romic in Tonj East. The students have studied hard since November when the school reopened after the COVID-19 closure. “Although I’ve had work at home, I kept revising my books when the school was closed. Since the school reopened, we have worked hard." 

Marsa is excited about moving to senior level after the exams and later she hope to go to nursing school. “I hope to become a nurse one day. I might not work here in Romic as it is difficult to get work although the need is high. So, I might start my career somewhere else.”

A unicef staff member holding exam papers

UNICEF education officer Mathiang Ajekuei is holding one of the three bundles with examination papers for Romic in Tonj East, which is dispatched with a helicopter. On 11 of February, the Ministry of General Education and Instruction announced that exams would be taking place in the seven counties where it was previously cancelled starting 15 February. With only four days to get the examination papers to the schools on time, UNICEF had to fly them out.

buckets and a bundle with face masks

Handwashing stations, including buckets and soap was also part of the delivery, in order for the children to stay healthy during their exam week. UNICEF also brought reusable face masks.

a man looking into the camera

“The students are ready," says Executive Director for Romic, Mabior Adel. “They have studies hard since the schools here reopened in November after the COVID-19 closure. They revised their books to their best abilities during the closure. We have tried to catch up as much as we can. They are prepared.”

Primary eight exams were held last week all over the country except in seven counties due to security concerns, according to the Ministry of General Education and Instruction. To avoid leakages, the Ministry produced a new set of exams for the seven locations.

“My concern is that our children are getting a different exam than the majority of the candidates in the country. Can we call this a national exam?” Adel finishes.

a man disembarking a chopper

The copper has finally landed in Romic and Manuer Acuil from the Ministry of General Education and Instruction disembarks with the examination papers. They have to be watched at all times to ensure the exams are fair. While Manuer has reached his final destination, exam papers are also being dropped in Akobo, Ayod, Fangak (old and new), Nyirol, Nasir and Longechuk for a total of 1,732 students.

A man offloading buckets from a helicopter

UNICEF education officer Mathiang Ajekuei is offloading the handwashing stations, soap and face masks, the the helicopter can return to Juba. When exam week is over, UNICEF will take the lead on collecting all the exams from the seven counties.

A boy looking at the camera

"I’m not scared of the exam, I’m ready," says Deng Wek (19). “My favorite subject is English, so I think I will do well on my English exam. I have studied hard since November when the school reopened. I wish I had more time to study, but I'm ready."

“I want to become a doctor or a nurse. So many people here need help, so I hope I can study and be of use to my community.”

A helicopter

Mission completed! 

“This was an important mission for UNICEF as access to education is a right for every child, regardless of location,” said Andrea Suley, UNICEF South Sudan Representative a.i. “I’m pleased with UNICEF’s ability to mobilize quickly with partners and deliver the examination papers on time. What remains, is to wish the children the best of luck.”

Even though the pandemic is still present in South Sudan, it is of utmost importance that children are able to continue their learning. There is significant evidence suggesting that schools are not drivers in the pandemic. Furthermore, we know the devastating effects the school closure has on children's future.  Therefore, UNICEF is urging the Government of South Sudan to keep places of learning open.

UNICEF is grateful for the swift assistance from UNHAS and WFP in helping us organizing the exam delivery by air, on short notice. UNICEF is also thankful for the advocacy efforts by the donor community and for the flexible education funding from the Government of Norway, which is critical for meeting last-minute needs.