Out of 22 countries affected by conflict, South Sudan has the highest proportion of out-of-school children, UNICEF said today.
With more than half (51%) of primary and lower secondary age children not accessing an education, South Sudan is home to the highest proportion of out of school children in the world. Even before the 2013 conflict, only one in ten children in South Sudan completed primary school, with 1.4 million children out of school across the country. The ensuing two years of violence has exacerbated the situation forcing 413,000 more children out of school, and leading to the destruction of more than 800 schools.
Education continues to be one of the least funded sectors in humanitarian appeals, including in South Sudan where a UNICEF appeal in 2015 was just 31% funded. Unless the provision of education in emergencies is prioritised, a generation of children living in conflict will grow up without the skills they need to contribute to their country and economy, exacerbating the already desperate situation for children and their families.
“Education cannot wait – it is the smartest investment for a peaceful and prosperous South Sudan,” said Jonathan Veitch, UNICEF Representative in South Sudan. “However, without increased funding, we cannot support the huge numbers of children who are presently out-of-school. Children in South Sudan have lost their homes, family members, friends, safety, and routine. Education is key to ensuring they don’t also lose their futures.”
UNICEF believes the importance of education in the worlds newest country cannot be overemphasized. Education is key both for the development of individuals’ functional literacy, numeracy and livelihood skills, and as a sustainable peace-building tool. Quality education can ensure respect for different opinions, comprehension of human rights and peaceful conflict resolution, and informed decision-making.
Last year, UNICEF with support from donors and in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and other partners launched the Back to Learning campaign, which saw close to 360,000 children accessing education by the end of 2015. With the recently signed peace agreement, it is expected that displaced children, those living in the Protection of Civilians sites (POCs) and refugees will eventually be able to return home, where they will immediately need education. And yet without massive and long-term investment in the sector, the cycle of violence risks continuing.