Southern Sudan’s referendum on independence this week is focusing international attention on one of the world’s poorest regions – and its dire education needs. Thousands of southerners have been returning home to from the north and from neighbouring countries, putting more pressure on an already overstretched system.
Education was hit hard by the two-decade civil war in the south that ended in 2005. Huge numbers of children are out of school, there is a desperate need for more classrooms and more trained teachers, and financing is scarce. Now the system faces an uphill battle to meet the hopes of what seems likely to be a new country.We consider many of these questions in the 2011 EFA Global Monitoring Report, to be launched on March 1, which examines the links between education and violent conflict.
One of our key findings is that the future of schooling in conflict-affected regions like Southern Sudan depends on the ability of donors to commit to long-term development aid that will support the reconstruction of a viable, good-quality education system.
Meanwhile, as returnees crowd Southern Sudan’s towns and villages, education is suffering because many schools are being taken over for accommodation, as this BBC/Save the Children slideshow illustrates.
There are other education problems across Sudan. Classrooms are almost empty in some parts of Khartoum that have been deserted by southerners. And Arabic-speaking children are arriving in the south to find that classes are mostly in English, in a reversal of the situation that confronted southerners two decades ago, at the outset of the civil war, when Arabic-language teaching was imposed upon them.
In the south, many people say that schools – along with roads and hospitals – are what they need most, as Solomon Attari, chief of the village of Imolie, reports in as article for The Guardian.
Southern Sudan’s most famous émigrés – and some of their celebrity friends – have been doing their bit. The late basketballer Manute Bol raised funds to build a school in his former village, Turalei. Valentino Achak Deng, the hero of David Eggers’s novel What is the What, has put his share of the profits of the book into building a secondary school – one of the region’s few – in his home village of Marial Bai. The school and Deng’s efforts were featured in an hour-long TV special on Dateline NBC about George Clooney’s visit to Southern Sudan.