Monday 8 February 2021

Going to school is important for girls because if a girl gets educated she can do the same things that her brothers do in the future.

   Abuk*, 13 attending education on air lesson with her radio distributed by Save the Children. Photo: Malama Mwila/Save the Children

Abuk and her family are among the more than 850,000 people who have been displaced by floods across 39 counties in South Sudan since July. The floods have caused the destruction of infrastructure (including roads, schools, and homes), increased the risk of water-borne diseases, as well as cutting off communities from markets, basic services and humanitarian assistance. Her school is among the over 380 schools that have been affected by the flood.

Her family is living in an Internally Displaced Person’s settlement while she is staying at a boarding facility managed by her school. She is in the 8th grade which is an examination class and therefore, in spite of the COVID-19 enforced school closures she is among those children who are currently in school. Save the Children working with the Ministry of General Education and partners have been distributing radios to help children like Abuk to catch up on the time they have lost out due to the floods and the COVID-19 closures. Through the SCI supported child rights clubs, Abuk and her friends are learning about how to protect themselves from COVID-19.

Abuk’s story in her own words (quotes):

"When the floods came, my family and I were forced to move away from our home. This is the first flood I have experienced in my life. My parents have told me that in the past they had some floods but nothing as big as this one that displaced our family. For the future, I am worried that the floods will get worse because people in my community and other places are cutting down trees. I had to stop going to school as well because our school was also flooded with water. I felt sad when schools closed because I was worried that I would forget what the teachers had taught me.

Life has changed since the flood came, we are no longer living in our home and our school has been affected. School used to be near home but when the floods came and we moved to another area, the distance to school increased. It made me miss some days because I could not manage to walk a long distance every day. My family is living on the other side of the water in a shelter near the airport so coming to school means walking in the water over a long distance. I am happy that I now stay at the school boarding house. We used to have goats, sheep and we had planted sorghum, maize and beans but the flood destroyed everything. Things had already changed before the flood came because of the coronavirus but the floods made things worse. The coronavirus made my father lose his job. He started failing to provide us the things he used to before the disease. He used to pay school fees easily but since he lost his job, he can’t manage to pay school fees. At this school, we pay 15,000 South Sudan Pounds (25 USD) per term. My father is struggling to find that money to pay for me and my siblings. At home we used to eat three meals in a day but now the family only eats once or twice if we are lucky.

When schools were closed because of the coronavirus and the flood, we received this radio so we can learn using radio lessons. My friends and I listen to the radio lessons twice in a day, in the morning and the afternoon. I am happy that for us in primary 8 we are back in school now and I think it is better to learn in class than just using the radio. I still like the radio lessons because I can compare what I learn on radio with what the teacher is teaching us in class. Sometimes when the teacher is not in class, we can tune to the radio and keep learning. In particular, I enjoy listening to science, religious education and maths lessons.

Save the Children has provided me with learning materials such as books and pens and they brought me this radio. In the child rights club, they have given us information on how to stay safe from coronavirus. In the Save the Children child rights club, we have learnt about how to protect ourselves using two acronyms. We must avoid touching our Mouth, Eyes and Nose or as we call it avoid MEN (laughs). We must follow WOMEN that means we must Wash hands, Observe and Maintain physical distance, Exercise regularly and No handshaking.

Going to school is important for girls because if a girl gets educated she can do the same things that her brothers do in the future. If she doesn’t go to school, life will be hard as she will only work at the market selling things. I want to be educated so I can become a lawyer like my elder sister. I want to enjoy my life like my elder sister who can buy what she wants without asking someone for help. I hope we can continue receiving support so we can stay in school and keep learning. I want a better future where there will be no poverty. A future where schools are made of bricks and not mud like it is in this school.”

The education system and infrastructure in South Sudan are fragile. Years of conflict, displacement, insecurity and economic challenges have exacerbated the education needs in the country. Some 60 per cent of primary and secondary schools and classrooms are either partially or completely damaged. Insecurity has been the major cause behind school closure in recent years, with 20 per cent of schools non-functional. Many schools have inadequate or no basic teaching, learning and recreational supplies.

Delayed or lack of payments to teachers has also affected services by causing high employee turnover. furthermore, 380 schools have been damaged and at least 126 of them are now occupied by IDPs due to recent flooding. As such, the number of children in need of access to education services is expected to increase in 2021 to 3.4 million from 3.1 million 2020 and 2.9 million in 2019. Food insecurity is the main reason for children to drop out or to miss school, as families have no option but to engage their children in livelihood activities over education.

During the school closures, SCI has re-prioritized interventions to facilitate distance learning through radio teaching and other alternative programme until all schools can reopen safely. At the same time, SCI with support from Norad has also prioritized activities that include repair-renovation of Temporary Learning Spaces (TLS), provision of school supplies, school WASH services, and the short orientation/training of teachers and community members on Back to School (B2S) campaign. SCI will also focus on risk mitigation and protection of school children from the impact of COVID-19 through developing messaging and awareness-raising campaigns.

 Case Study Written by: Malama Mwita/Save the Children