Janika Walter, German Deputy Head of Mission visits WTI supported schools in Yambio

Earlier this month, Ms Janika Walter, the German Deputy Head of Mission, who also doubles as the Head of Cooperation at the German Embassy in South Sudan, visited WTI supported schools in Yambio, Western Equatoria State. Yambio is one of three counties, alongside Juba and Torit, where WTI implements the project “Strengthening Community Resilience” which is funded by UNICEF and KFW, a leading state-owned German investment and development bank. This project targets 38 primary schools with around 27,000 learners in all.

Children showing school supplies to the UNICEF delegation to confirm that they had received them

Walter, accompanied by a UNICEF delegation, inspected the Yambio KFW project sites as part of a 3-day donor visit on the 14th-16th July 2021. This included meeting with implementing partners, including WTI, to find out more about the organisations and the work they do on the ground as well as visits to a number of schools and to the KFW funded water facilities constructed in Ikpiro. Walter and the team spent time interacting with pupils at the schools, as well as holding meetings with the schools’ administrations and the Parent-Teacher Associations.

The objectives of Walter’s mission included:

  • Checking on the activities the different partners are implementing with funding from KFW
  • Assessing the impact and recording success stories from the recipients of the project in the area
  • Interacting with the beneficiaries (PTA, pupils and the school community)
  • Identifying gaps in all sectors of the project (education, WASH and protection)
  • Observing the level of coordination across clusters
  • Debriefing the implementing partners and UNICEF on how to address the challenges and the way forward as observed during the visit

Walter was particularly keen to discuss enrolment levels following school reopening in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. This included the impact of the back-to-learning campaign on school enrolment, how challenging it was to convince parents to send their children to school, and how early pregnancies were affecting returnee levels amongst girls. Partners shared their experiences in getting children back to school, including the Back To Learning campaigns conducted by WTI and their partners throughout 2021. These campaigns have continued to promote the enrolment of learners in KFW supported schools and partners reported that although high numbers of girls had initially dropped out of school due to pregnancy, they were now reporting back to school and would be able to complete their primary education with sustained support. The delegation was also given details on the progress made in the procurement and distribution of school supplies and school renovations: important components of quality and access in education.

It was also noted that some schools had low enrolment due to poor teaching, resulting from the poor working conditions of the teachers. In government schools, poor teaching is seen to be caused by the low motivation of teachers, and as such parents prefer sending their children to private, community and faith-based schools. Despite this challenge, WTI has continued to involve the local authority at County and Payam levels and has supported them in conveying advocacy messages on back to learning. On the same note, the Payam officials have also involved the traditional leaders to engage with the parents to send their children to schools, especially focusing on girls. Before intervention, the WTI baseline study showed that girls made up only 43% of school enrolment. 3 months later, after community engagement and Back to Learning campaigns, this figure has risen to 48%.

The visiting delegation were impressed with the work being done by UNICEF and its implementing partners. The Germany Deputy Head of Mission had this to write to UNICEF “I am amazed by UNICEF’s profound insight and high professionalism. Winnie (Assistant Desk Officer at the German Mission) and I felt extremely well received and briefed by everyone participating in the trip. Thank you once again for organizing this field trip”. She went on to say “I would like to extend my gratitude to your partners, World Vision, CMMB and Windle Trust for the great work they are doing in Yambio”.