As thousands of people flee outbreaks of violence in the Tigray region of Ethiopia and seek refuge in Sudan, the focus from international aid agencies will rightly be on ensuring the very basic of needs are met – shelter, food, water. But we must not forget the importance of keeping children and young people in education, says Windle International CEO Dr Marangu Njogu. If we are going to find a long-term, peaceful solution to conflict in the region, education is the key.
Reflecting decades of neglect, conflict and lack of resources, educational facilities in South Sudan are amongst the poorest in the world. In turn this leads to very low enrolment rates, especially for girls.
Recognising the scale of the problem and the need for a sustained and wide-ranging programme to stimulate change and encourage more girls and boys to attend school, the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Education set up a dedicated and nationwide programme to increase access to primary and secondary schooling.
The war that broke out in December 2013 has meant that the 2015 academic year has been a difficult one for school children all over South Sudan. The consequence has been catastrophic for the nation’s sense of unity, its economy and its external reputation. But what is really encouraging is that – despite fear, violence and displacement – girls’ attendance at school has not significantly declined.
In December 2013, a civil war began in South Sudan. It is a war that has been marked by brutal violence against civilians and deepening suffering across the country. Insecurity and active hostilities constrain civilians’ freedom of movement. The major humanitarian consequences are widespread displacement due to the violence; high rates of death, disease, and injuries; and severe food insecurity and disrupted livelihoods. The long term task of building a collective sense of nationhood has suffered a major blow.