South Sudan: Getting girls back into schools

Girls attending a school FH built in South Sudan as film crew documents their progress.

This past July 9 marked the second anniversary of South Sudan’s independence. As the country starts making progress, it still faces challenges – especially in educating girls. But progress is being made, as you will read.

Recently, I traveled with a film crew to South Sudan to shoot a video on girls’ education. On our first attempt to get to Ulang County, we had to turn back from impassable roads. This is the norm—one example of how life is not easy for most South Sudanese.

A young country

The country is the youngest in the world, and so is the actual population. According to the South Sudan National Bureau of Statistics, 72 percent of the population is below the age of 30. More than half the population lives below the poverty line. And only 27 percent of the adult population is literate.

Girls have little or no chance at getting an education in most areas of South Sudan. Cultural practices see girls married off at very young ages. Some fathers pick suitors for daughters as young as age 11. Primary school drop out rates are high.

But we did see some progress being made at a school Food for the Hungry built in Atar in Ulang County. It was a two-hour boat ride from Malakal and rested along the Nile River. We got some interviews and footage. I met one girl there named Sarah.

Sarah’s going to school

After experiencing one of Africa’s longest running civil wars, most South Sudanese (like Sarah) were denied an education. Until FH came along to build a school, none were available to her.

“I did not get a chance to go to school because of the war,” said Sarah. “I can only hope my children will get that chance, because as I see it, someone educated is better off than someone who is not.

“Now South Sudan is a new country, things have to change,” Sarah continued. “Girls and boys need to go to school. I would like to appreciate FH and the schools they have built. I hope they will be able to build more.”

Building a nation

Every effort to improve education, strengthen health systems, lobby for policy change so that girls can go to school – it all goes a long way in helping the country grow.

I made a mental note of all the efforts that FH staff put into making one more girl [and boy] have a chance for a good education and health; the essential building blocks to any nation.

You can be a  part of building this nation and making room for girls to develop their minds and talents. Please continue to pray and join Food for the Hungry in opening more schools next year in South Sudan.