School construction programme boosts girls’ education

Schools destroyed in the conflict are being rebuilt, thanks to donors like African Development Bank.

Robin Giri
Students of Malakia Girls School
22 July 2022

Malakal, Upper Nile State, South Sudan – In a ceremony replete with traditional dancers, ululating women and screams of happy children, the Malakia Girls Primary School was officially inaugurated in Malakal recently; almost nine years since it was destroyed during the fighting in 2013.

“Today is a historic day for the parents and children of Malakal,” said Hon. Awut Deng Acuil, the Minister for General Education and Instruction as she unveiled the stone marker denoting her action.

“Our government is committed to the education of children, particularly girls’ education. Providing education for our children is also the responsibility of society, and I call upon all duty bearers to support maintenance and management of this school from today so that children can continue to learn,” said the Hon. Minister.

Prior to the outbreak of fighting in 2013, the Malakia Primary Girls School was providing education to just over 300 girls.

As she spoke, the sturdy-blue-roofed buildings with gender-friendly toilets and a water point, stood like a reassuring testimony to the wishes of the parents in the community, the support of donors, and the governments’ objective to ensure equitable quality basic education for the children of South Sudan, particularly girls.

Community members celebrate the inauguration of the school.
Community members celebrate the arrival of the Hon. Minister for the inauguration of the school.

Malakal used to have 46 schools and many of them got destroyed or damaged in the conflict. To date, only half of these schools have reopened. Schools that are not functioning are just one of the many challenges that the children of South Sudan face every day to access basic education.

South Sudan has one of the highest rates of out-of-school children in the region with an estimated 2.2 million children not in school even before the COVID-19 related closures. Prolonged humanitarian crises and the continued subnational violence threatens to further increase the number of dropouts.

“The reconstruction and renovation of schools in the State will provide hope for the future of our children and we are grateful to the government, and to the kind donors for supporting this,” said Hon. Ayong Awer Lual, the Deputy Governor of Upper Nile State at the inauguration ceremony.

As part of the Back to Learning Initiative, UNICEF, with the generous support of the African Development Bank is supporting the construction and rehabilitation of schools, County Education Centres (CEC) and National Teacher Training Institutions in four states of Upper Nile, Jonglei, Eastern Equatoria and Unity.

Malakia Primary Girls School is one of 10 schools in Upper Nile State, and a total of 35 schools will be constructed as part of this programme.

Schoolchildren stand proudly beside the new school with their teacher.
Schoolchildren stand proudly beside the new school with their teacher.

“This is a historic day as we know that education for children can’t wait. Particularly girls’ education. UNICEF and its partners are working with the Ministry of General Education and Instruction, and communities and parents to ensure that children continue to access learning opportunities regardless of where they are or their situation,” said UNICEF Representative Hamida Lasseko.

UNICEF and education partners including African Development Bank, the European Union, and the Global Partnership for Education are providing teaching and learning materials, including furniture and textbooks for the children, and supporting continuous professional development for teachers, who are the backbone of the education system.

With support of these donors, UNICEF will help to train of 1,500 teachers through the in-service teacher training arrangement in Upper Nile State. Additionally, the parent teacher association and school management committees will also train local communities to support the management of the school, including the maintenance of the new buildings. These activities will significantly contribute to quality of teaching at schools and eventually improve learning outcomes for children.