Primary 8 National Exams, a Sign of Hope
Equal opportunity and timely access to final exams are imperative for children’s future
At 5:00am Rania Pasquole wakes up to prepare tea for her family and run out the door, mask in hand, to meet her fellow classmates getting on the bus. She sits down beside Luoyhok Thuok Gat in the very back of the bus, bouncing all the way to Juba town to take their national exams.
The dust glows and swirls in the morning sunlight and settles onto pressed white shirts, neat hair and black pants of the students from Hope Primary School, in the former Protection of Civilian camp number 3 (PoC 3). Internally displaced people fled to safety of the protected camps (PoC) during the civil war of 2013, now decommissioned and are referred to as Internally Displaced Camps.
Juba has a feeling of hope this week as Primary 8 students sit for the national exams. Over 1,200 students from PoC 1 and 3 were recently told that their exam location was moved from their schools to 4 new locations, a 30-minute drive away, in town. With the prospect of PoC students not being able to get to the exams due to financial restraints, UNICEF supported the Ministry of Education and Instruction with buses for transportation and COVID-19 protective equipment such as handwashing stations, soap and masks. It is essential that all children, also those in vulnerable communities, have equal access to exams so that they can have more opportunities in their future.
“I want to be the Prime Minister when I grow up. I have to take my exam now to move on [to Senior 1],” Rania (16 years old) says to Luoyhok (22 years old) on the bus ride to the exams. “I want to allow people to improve the country.” Rania says she is “feeling free” and ready for her exams this week. She studied a lot while the school was shut down from March to October last year due to COVID-19, even though she had many extra chores around the house at the time.
Luoyhok responds about his future goals. “I love reading science books, anything about science. I might even work in research when my school is finished.” He is the eldest of 8 siblings, all living in PoC 3 with an uncle. Luoyhok keeps swatting his clothes and says that he feels stressed on the way to the exam, even though today’s test is about Science, because the bus is too dusty. More stress comes once they arrive at the exam location and wait over an hour to get started; too much time for the mind to wander.
I want to be the Prime Minister when I grow up. I have to take my exam now to move on.
The masked students get off the bus, filter into Juba 1 Primary School and wash their hands at the UNICEF supplied handwashing station. Monitors watch to see if students are following the COVID-19 protective measures. Rania and Luoyhok say they are not worried about coronavirus because they follow the rules. They just want to finish the week of exams and continue their schooling.
Seeing children in schools shows that progress is being made even in times of COVID-19. All is not lost during these hard times of the pandemic, and students are the leaders in showing us how to adjust to the current times. At 11:30 am the exams finish, Rania and Luoyhok get on the bus and head back to their homes at PoC 3 to prepare for the English language exam tomorrow.
All children have a right to education. UNICEF appeals for every child in South Sudan to have equal and timely access to their exams.
Investing in education benefits us all and UNICEF can support this mission through kind donations from the Government of Norway, EU, ECHO, USAID, UKAID and the Global Partnership for Education.