International Day of Education: attending school in South Sudan

2023 International Day of Education: how Living Sunday, a young single mother, is back in school thanks to a project by AVSI and Education Cannot Wait

Countries South Sudan
Date 24.01.2023
Author By Elena Franchini, AVSI Program coordinator in South Sudan

To invest in people, prioritize education”: this is the topic of the fifth International Day of Education, which is celebrated on January 24. It was established by the United Nations to reflect on the importance of education as a public good and a right for all, even in the poorest countries like South Sudan.

The 22-year-old South Sudanese student Living Sunday, as a matter of fact, knows what it means to struggle to stay in school, as she had to give up her studies after having a baby.

"I had to drop out of school - she tells us - because I got pregnant. My father kicked me out and my husband didn’t help me. It hasn’t been easy, school isn’t for girls who get married early and become mothers. In fact, it’s very difficult for everybody in South Sudan to finish their studies without interruption: the buildings are crumbling, the classes are overcrowded, and the never-ending conflicts force students to escape, and the schools to shut down."

Giornata mondiale educazione AVSI sud sudan progetto Education Cannot wait
Living Sunday, 22 years old, heads back home with her little boy after filling up a tank of water at the nearest well.
Magwi, South Sudan - Photo by Davide Arcuri

Thanks to AVSI’s project, realized in partnership with SPEDP (Support for Peace Education and Development Program), proposed by Save The Children, and financed by Education Cannot Wait, the UN’s global fund for education in protracted crisis and emergency contexts.

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"The school is five kilometers away from my house: everyday I wake up at 4 AM and walk for an hour but it's worth it, especially now that we have a new and welcoming building, books, pens, and electricity too. When I got my period, I couldn’t go to school, but now pads and soap are supplied to us. I’m graduating soon, and my dream is to continue my studies and attend college.’’

Quality Education for South Sudanese children with AVSI

The MYRP project (South Sudan Multi-Year Resilience Program) was implemented by AVSI from May 2020 to December 2022 in the state of Eastern Equatoria, with the aim of safeguarding the opportunity to go to school for boys and girls.

AVSI has contributed to overcoming the barriers that often lead to school dropout - such as discriminatory social norms, gender-based differences, food insecurity - and has taken care of the children's psycho-physical well-being, in addition to supplying materials, restoring school facilities, and training teachers.

+54% school enrollment in one year, more girls in school

Distribuzione kit igienici per ragazze nella scuola di Obbo, Sud Sudan
Distribution of hygiene kits to an all-girls secondary school in Obbo, South Sudan: otherwise, the girls can't attend school during menstruation.
Photo by Davide Arcuri

In 2022 alone, the program has enabled 10,747 kids to enroll in school (5,928 boys and 4,819 girls). The number of pupils with disabilities attending school has also increased, compared to 2021.

Despite the unstable security conditions and continuous intra-community tensions that afflict South Sudan (recently documented in a study published by AVSI), school enrollment rates have risen by 54% thanks to the construction and restoration of school facilities and ‘Temporary Learning Spaces’.

Dedicating more attention to gender needs has also increased female participation in school: the girls received hygiene kits, were involved in meetings to get to know more about their menstrual cycle, and received psychological support, particularly young mothers such as Living Sunday.

A special gift for a child on the International Day of Education: the chance to go to school
With less than 1 euro a day, you will ensure that a child can attend school, has a healthy diet and access to healthcare.
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AVSI in South Sudan

AVSI has been involved in the education sector in South Sudan for many years: in 2022, it helped more than 11,000 students and 118 schools - not only with financial and material assistance, but also through activities raising awareness on the importance of education, which for AVSI represents the spark putting development into motion for the entire community. AVSI South Sudan, present in the country since 2005, also implements projects on Food Security, Nutrition, Water Health and Hygiene (WASH), Peace-building, and Protection, helping about 650.000 people.

The International Day of Education “To invest in people, prioritize education

The theme of the 2023 International Day of Education invites to keep up the strong political mobilization reserved to education and to translate global commitments into action. Amidst a global recession, growing inequalities and climate crises, education must be everyone’s priority to achieve sustainable development goals.

Studenti in Sud Sudan
Studente della Secondary School di Magwi, Sud Sudan