As education leaders and politicians alike think about how to the tackle the challenges to school systems that have been brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, it should not be forgotten that this is not the only reason that young people have missed out on school. We also need to consider those who are unable to completely return to school or forced to drop out for reasons such as early and unwanted pregnancies, forced marriages, conflict, or poverty. As we all think about Building Back Better, we can’t do so by leaving some children or young adults behind.
To better understand the impacts of Covid-19 of girls’ education in South Sudan, WTI conducted research in Lakes and Unity states to find the extent of school dropouts through the Covid-19 period and the reasons given.
South Sudan has the lowest secondary enrolment rates in the world – just 5% of young people go on to join secondary schools. A staggering 95% never get the chance to complete their basic education. Even worse, 5% is an average – for girls and in some states the percentage will be less than half that figure. It is WTI’s view that unless there is a concerted and sustained programme of collective action, there is no likelihood of significant positive change in the next five years.
South Sudan has a very small secondary sector, with less than 250 secondary schools and approximately 3,000 teachers. While governments and donors have focused their attention on increasing access to primary schooling in recent years, the secondary sector has been neglected. In particular, secondary school teachers have had few opportunities for training or continuous professional development, leading to doubts about the quality of secondary education.
A key priority for Windle Trust International in South Sudan in the future will be to explore different ways of improving teaching and learning outcomes in secondary schools as well as to enable more women to enter, and remain in, the profession.