19 February 2015 – A new campaign launched by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) aims to bring education opportunities to 400,000 children whose schooling has been interrupted by the conflict in South Sudan.
UNICEF’s ‘Back to Learning’ campaign, which was launched in Juba today by the agency and the President of South Sudan Salva Kiir, will reach out-of-school children in all 10 states, including areas currently engulfed in conflict, over the next 12 months.
“Around 70 per cent of the 1,200 schools in the major conflict states have closed, raising grave fears that a generation of children could be left behind by the ongoing civil war,” said Jonathan Veitch, UNICEF’s Representative in South Sudan. “Quality education is the single most important element for a country to develop economically, socially and culturally. It is also a critical human right.”
The $42 million campaign aims to allay disruption caused by the war, which has compounded the effects of an education system that was already weak at best. Before the war, primary education reached just 42 per cent of school-aged children, with only 10 per cent completing school.
UNICEF and partners will provide a comprehensive package of education support for children aged three to 18 years of age who are sheltering in camps for internally displaced people or in host communities devastated by the war, where no education services are available.
The UN agency will work with 20 local and international non-governmental organisations and aims to reach 200,000 children in schools and learning spaces in the conflict areas with pre-school and basic education, catch-up programmes for adolescents and psychosocial support in the classrooms.
An additional 200,000 children will be enrolled in 1,000 schools in non-conflict areas. Training will be provided for 4,000 teachers and early childhood development facilitators, as well as 1,500 Parent Teacher Association members.
“We have invested heavily in supplies and learning but we need an additional $12 million urgently just to provide basic education kits to target schools,” said Mr. Veitch. “This initiative will invest $100 in every child’s learning. It’s a small cost for the hope and opportunity it brings.”
The security situation in South Sudan deteriorated steadily over the past year since political in-fighting between President Kiir and his former Vice-President, Riek Machar, started in mid-December 2013. The hostilities subsequently turned into a full-fledged conflict that has sent nearly 100,000 civilians fleeing to bases around the country operated by the UN Mission, known as UNMISS. The crisis has uprooted an estimated 1.9 million people and placed more than 7 million at risk of hunger and disease.
Nonetheless, a recent peace deal between the warring factions has fostered hope of a definitive end to the year-long conflict.