Teachers and students rejoice as schools reopen

UNICEF and education partners launch communication campaign to advocate for more training and support for teachers who are the backbone of the education sector.

Robin Giri
Teachers and students rejoice
12 May 2022

The screams of happy children greet you as you enter the compound of the Venus Star Academy in Mangateen. It is morning recess on the first day of school, and the mass of swirling yellow and blue uniforms chasing each other in the school compound is a welcome sight after almost two months of the school break.

“People may not believe me, but the truth is that I began missing my students after the second week of the school break,” says Angela Nyiriek, the English teacher for Primary Four. “I think I was getting bored at home and I missed these guys.”

Angela takes joy in teaching, which is not a well-paid job in South Sudan and where the majority of teachers are volunteers. That is the reason why UNICEF and partners European Union launched a multimedia campaign titled Teaching is not just my job – it’s my passion to motivate and to advocate for better training for teachers to increase teacher retention and improve the quality of education.

Venus Star Academy is located on the outer periphery of Juba town and although most of the students have returned, it will take a few more days before all students return to school. Considering that South Sudan is in the middle of the rainy season, many returning students have to wade through muddy roads to get to school.

However, the rains have no effect on the few students who couldn’t wait for school to reopen.

“I really missed school because my best friends are in the same class. I was counting the days when the new school year would start,” says Nyandieng James, now in Primary Eight, with a big smile. “Coming to school is not just about learning, it’s also a place for me to connect with my friends and we can share and discuss things that concern us girls.”

Schoolgirls rejoice at being reunited with their friends
Nyandieng James (2nd from R) is happy to be reunited with her best friends as schools reopen for the new academic year in South Sudan.

Her friends nod and smile knowingly at each other.

The truth is that schools not only provide basic education. They also provide a safe space for girls who can share their concerns with their friends and peers. Being in school provides them with knowledge and skills but can also protect them from abuse and early marriage; and teachers play a critical role in protecting children and particularly girls, by providing advice and being a mentor to them.

“What I like most about our school is how our teachers behave with us,” says Nyon Peter, a friend of Nyandrieng who has been attending Venus Star Academy for the last three years. “They take time to explain when we don’t understand, and they make learning more fun by providing examples.”

This view is echoed by many of the students and is the reason why UNICEF selected three teachers from Venus Star Academy for the ongoing national multimedia campaign.

There are many challenges facing the education sector in South Sudan, and an estimated 2.8 million children are out of school. The yearly floods and climate related disasters destroy and damage schools and this is further compounded by the lack of trained teachers. Teaching is one of the least paid jobs in South Sudan and due to inflation, salaries have become unstable.

Teachers and students on first day of new school year
Teachers and students are glad to be back at school on the first day of the new school year.

UNICEF works with partners to support the Ministry of General Education and Instruction to improve access to basic education for children. The focus is on continuous development training for teachers, which will make them more skilled and equipped, inside and outside the classroom.

“Interacting with the children, telling them stories and reading to them makes me very happy, because I know how much influence teachers can make in their children’s lives. It was one of my former teachers who motivated me and here I am today,” says Angela, the English teacher.

Through teacher trainings, their capacity is improved in teaching methodologies, social and emotional learning, and effective use of teaching aids to ensure that each child gains as much as they can from their learning. This support to teachers is thanks to the generous funding from the European Union, African Development Bank (AfDB), Global Partnership for Education, the Italian and the Swiss National Committee for UNICEF.