Unicef targeting 400,000 out-of-school children in national initiative
3 June 2015 – A national campaign to reverse the massive downward trend in school attendance and participation in South Sudan, and return 400,000 children back to learning, today held its final state launch in Yambio, Western Equatoria.
“Every child in South Sudan has the right to an education, whether they live in a conflict-affected or a peaceful state,” said Jonathan Veitch, Representative, Unicef South Sudan, speaking at the event. Veitch spoke in the presence of the Governor, the Ambassador of Japan, the Ministry for Education, Science and Technology, local Government, NGOs, school children and communities in attendance.
“Ongoing conflict,” continued Veitch, “and an increasingly fragile economy have devastated the country’s education system and this has huge repercussions for an entire generation of South Sudanese children. This is also a lifesaving issue - we know that a child whose mother can read is 50 per cent more likely to live past the age of five.”
Education has the largest funding gap of all Unicef’s interventions in South Sudan with only 21% of funds for 2015 received to date. The Government of Japan has generously contributed $9.5 million in 2015 to fund Unicef programmes, including education, in all states of South Sudan.
“The Government of Japan is committed to helping get children back to learning in the world’s youngest nation,” said H.E. Kiya Masahiko, Ambassador of Japan to South Sudan. “It is only through education that they can fulfill their potential and build a peaceful and stable future for all.”
Both the Unicef Representative Veitch and Ambassador to Japan praised the Western Equatoria State authorities for prioritizing education. The Governor has led the way in insisting on education for all, especially girls, and the demand for education in the state is at an all-time high. However, resource constraints mean the state authorities simply cannot keep up with the huge demand, and as a result children drop out of school.
While school enrolment rates in Western Equatoria have bucked trends and increased in recent years, the dropout rates have worryingly also been on the rise. Over 50 per cent of all classes in the state are still held in open air. The state targets to bring 40,000 out-of-school children (including 40 per cent girls) into school and back to learning.
The nation-wide Back to Learning Initiative, launched in February 2015, is a US$42 million initiative to give children who have never been, or who have been forced to drop out of school. 200,000 children are being targeted in conflict-affected states and 200,000 in other areas. To date more than 100,000 children have been provided with access to learning opportunities and the campaign is on track to achieve its objectives by the end of the year.
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