Accessibility to quality education has been a challenge for countries, mainly due to the lack of resources or policies to reinforce the need for education. In other words, the cause of a low literacy level typically varies based on the condition of a given country, and multiple social, economic, and historical aspects can affect education.
South Sudan is ranked as one of the least educated countries in the world. For context, South Sudan’s population is primarily children and younger adults. A little “more than 70% of South Sudan’s population is under the age of 30,” according to the United States Agency for International Development. South Sudan has an approximated population of 11 million people as of 2024, with only 8,000 primary schools (grades 1-8), 120 secondary schools (grades 9-12), and only one university that is shared among the millions of people who live there.
Considering the uneven distribution of schools, not only is there a clear lack of school buildings available to students, but most, if not all of the secondary schools are in South Sudan towns. Those students who live in the rural areas of South Sudan may fail to attend secondary school because of the commuting time and their inability to dedicate that much time to that. Students in more rural areas that are further away from urban areas and towns have significantly less accessibility to schools, education programs, and learning materials.
Finances and the struggling economy contribute heavily to South Sudan’s education as well. For those students who do attend school, the schooling provided often lacks key components and does not meet the standard education result. Their schools often lack textbooks, equipment, and learning materials. Those studying the sciences may not have access to a laboratory to pursue research and experimentation; many topics are learned and taught based on speculations and theories, hindering the accuracy and learning process of the students. This leads to a lack of teachers for the future generation. Since the education system is poorly funded, teachers and school workers are not paid well compared to those in the medical field. For those who are teachers, strikes and protests are common among them, working towards a higher pay rate, but this means that during their time striking, the students have one less day of educational learning. Many teachers also got their own education in South Sudan, and considering the lack of outside resources they have, many lessons are taught based on potential theories and speculation. They may have outdated textbooks on specific topics or none at all. Since many subjects at school are built off of each other, this may be hard if there isn’t a resource for a specific subject. For example, in order to properly understand calculus, students must have the foundations gathered from algebra. If the algebra textbook is outdated or provides only a fraction of the information needed, both algebra and calculus may not be properly learned. They may also not have access to technology, which can influence students’ research skills and access to help from online videos, websites, and practices.
South Sudan has statistics on early child marriage and pregnancy, which mainly affect girls' education. Based on the UNICEF 2020 report, “one in three girls in South Sudan become pregnant before turning 15.” They may choose to focus on taking care of their own child at a young age. At this point, they will miss a large part of primary and early secondary schooling, or they will choose not to pursue an education at all to take care of the responsibilities placed on them. The statistics show that early pregnancy and marriage among girls are common, leading to fewer and fewer girls in the working industry. There are significantly fewer female teachers as well which if there were more of, can act as a role model and influence the importance of females in the education field.
Historically, there have been political tensions in South Sudan as well. Although there isn’t a specific war that caused various displacements among civilians there, it can result from the ongoing tensions. The South Sudanese Civil War was between the government and opposition forces. There still may be existing or lingering tensions from past conflicts that may have shifted the focus onto military advancements and regulations instead of promoting education. The continuous power struggle between two powers can root fear into the civilians and may have caused a bulk of the displacement experienced by those living between them. This can explain the split among those in rural and more urban areas.
Unfortunately, South Sudan isn’t just considered one of the most uneducated countries but also struggles with general humanitarian needs. According to the World Bank, as of 2023, about “76% of the population in need of humanitarian assistance.” With more statistics and data provided, they lack access to sanitary water and other potentially life-threatening issues. Fortunately, there have been organizations established to assist children and refugees in South Sudan to provide humanitarian relief and development such as the Sudan Relief Fund, Save the Children, and International Rescue Committee. By recognizing the different aspects that constantly influence South Sudan’s society and way of living, others will be able to focus on specific factors, potentially shifting towards a more stable and accessible country in the near future.
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“Education.” UNICEF, https://www.unicef.org/southsudan/what-we-do/education. Accessed 16 January 2024.
“Education and Youth | South Sudan | U.S. Agency for International Development.” USAID, https://www.usaid.gov/south-sudan/education. Accessed 16 January 2024.
“Education in South Sudan.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_South_Sudan. Accessed 16 January 2024.
“South Sudan.” International Rescue Committee, https://www.rescue.org/country/south-sudan. Accessed 16 January 2024.
“South Sudan - Education, Literacy, Schools.” Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/place/South-Sudan/Education. Accessed 16 January 2024.
“The South Sudan Education System: A Comprehensive Guide — Windle Trust International.” Windle Trust International, https://www.windle.org.uk/south-sudan-education-system. Accessed 16 January 2024.
“South Sudan | U.S. Agency for International Development.” USAID, https://www.usaid.gov/south-sudan. Accessed 16 January 2024.