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1 April 2008 - speech on the occasion of Southern Sudan's Education Day

Your Excellency the President of the Government of Southern Sudan, Your Excellency the Vice President of the Government of Southern Sudan, Your Excellency the Minister of Education, Science and Technology of the Government of Southern Sudan and other distinguished representatives of the government, Your Excellency the Governor of Central Equatoria State, ladies and gentlemen, and – most importantly of all – children.

Today, we recognize the notable gains that have been made in increasing access to education for 1.3 million Southern Sudanese children through the Go-to-School Initiative. In 2007, more than 500,000 children were encouraged back into the classrooms as a result of this initiative, representing another important milestone in the provision of an open and equal education system delivering quality teaching and learning.

One-third of children in school today in Southern Sudan are girls. This is an achievement we must build upon this, and something that must be accelerated. Ensuring education for girls is a shared responsibility, and I urge parents and community leaders to ensure that every child attends classes this year.

Every child in Southern Sudan has the right to go to school, to complete primary education, and go on to post-primary and higher education. A colleague overheard a young child say recently “We want to learn – we want to know the pen.”

We owe it to these children that they have the chance to know the pen – and carry with them into adulthood the possibility and opportunity that education provides.

The success of education depends not only on the number of children in the classrooms. We must also that those charged with delivering education are fully supported. The launching of the Teacher Headcount demonstrates the importance the government places in creating systems that support teachers. The headcount will give us clear information in regards to the exact number of those currently teaching, their qualifications and their gender.  This information will enable the government and its partners to put in place systems that promote efficient and effective delivery of education services.

Success also relies upon a collective sense of responsibility. Looking at the achievements in the education sector, one can see the power of effective partnership. Behind every child going to school this year lie the efforts of a wide range of actors. In addition to the leadership shown by the Government of Southern Sudan, I would also like to recognize the valuable support of friends in the donor community – in particular the governments of Denmark and Japan and those providing funding through the Multi-Donor Trust Fund.

The Go to School campaign represents a shared vision amongst UN agencies and especially non-governmental organizations and Parent Teacher Associations, who undertake the “last mile” of distributing school materials to the very last learning space.

These efforts and the results they achieve, if maintained at current levels, could enable Southern Sudan to attain the Millennium Development Goals for education. Given the challenges faced in terms of capacity and infrastructure, this would send an important message to the world, that despite those challenges, tangible peace dividends are being delivered for the children of Southern Sudan.

Your Excellencies, today I commit UNICEF to continued support for the education sector in Southern Sudan. Our focus now is to strengthen the quality of education; in 2008 UNICEF will work with the Government of Southern Sudan to train more than 3,000 teachers, support the development of 800 child-friendly schools benefiting from a gender balanced, rights based, and protective environment, and help enroll an additional 400,000 children in school. With this focus, we look forward to continuing our close collaboration for every child in Southern Sudan.



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