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Celebrating the second anniversary of Southern Sudan’s ‘Go To School’ campaign
JUBA, Southern Sudan, 3 April 2008 – As children in Southern Sudan celebrate the second anniversary of the UNICEF-supported 'Go to School' initiative, approximately 1.3 million pupils are expected to enter classes this year, as compared to some 340,000 in 2005.
To support their studies, millions of school bags, books, pencils and other supplies have been distributed by truck, boat and even on foot. In a region with barely any roads, the exercise presents immense logistical challenges. At 640,000 square km, Southern Sudan is about the size of Eastern Europe. Yet there are only 5 km of paved roads in the entire region.
In remote areas, school supplies are delivered by river barges travelling up the Nile River. Trucks force their way through heavy underbrush in order to reach remote 'bush schools'. Numerous consignments have been distributed using donkeys and carts.
Wartime surveys estimated that only 13 per cent of schoolchildren in Southern Sudan had access to basic learning materials – a figure that has risen to nearly 100 per cent today. It is this provision that has proven to be one of the most powerful incentives for families who would not otherwise be able to send their children to school.
Since the launch of Go to School on 1 April 2006, a year after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended two decades of war in Sudan, thousands of teachers have been trained and a new curriculum has been developed. Enrolment rates have skyrocketed.
Of the 1.3 million children now in school, 34 per cent are girls, a significant milestone in overturning taboos that had restricted them from attending classes. During the war, less than 1 per cent of girls completed their primary education.
This year, UNICEF will focus on building more permanent classrooms, training more teachers and strengthening the information management system.
An appeal for more help
“By working closely with the Government of Southern Sudan and other partners, we are confident that more and more children will enjoy their right to a quality education, delivered in a quality environment,” said UNICEF Representative in Sudan Ted Chaiban.
Mr. Chaiban stressed that substantial investment in education is required to keep Southern Sudan on track for the Millennium Development Goals.
“UNICEF is appealing for $15 million for its education programmes in Southern Sudan this year, which will provide the much-needed learning materials to keep children coming to school, as well as the training of teachers, construction of permanent schools and vital capacity building,” said Mr. Chaiban.
The Go To School initiative is supported by a number of donors, including the Governments of Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands and Japan, as well as UNICEF National Committees in Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.