The situation is critical in the world’s youngest nation, where more than 2.8 million or more than 72 percent of the children are not in school. For those who attend school, three-quarters start morning classes with empty stomachs, while a quarter find no food when they return home. More than 4.5 million children in the country are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to UNICEF.
However, the Yei River County government, a Spanish foundation and a local orphanage are working to bring about change, as they cooperate to improve the education of the children.
On 15 November, officials from the county, Nzuri Daima Foundation, and Kikiji National Orphanage signed a five-year agreement to respond to the education and food needs.
“Such partnerships are important in accelerating and improving the standards of education in South Sudan,” said Jackcillia Salathiel Ebere, national women’s coordinator at the South Sudan Council of Churches. “The best schools in South Sudan are church run or are privately owned. Therefore such partnerships would supplement the government efforts and boost education.”
Nzuri Daima, based in Madrid Spain, is a foundation that works to create social change through education in situations of inequality and vulnerability with a focus on children and the most vulnerable groups. Kikiji National Orphanage Centre is a South Sudan charity, which helps abandoned and orphaned children living in the streets of South Sudan.
Many children in South Sudan either have lost their parents through the prolonged war or others have been separated from their families with many others becoming refugees. At least 2.2 million of the children are orphaned children.
Food and lack of school fees have spurred child marriages, with agencies putting the rates at 52 percent.
Other considerations of the project are the low number of trained teachers, and their low income. Most schools lack basic infrastructure, materials and proper buildings.
“[We] wish to cooperate in a project that aims at the improvement of education in South Sudan, in response to the actual situation of the children of South Sudan, Central Equatoria State, Yei River County,” the signatories say in the agreement.
The foundation will search for sponsors to give monthly incentives to teachers, and where possible help initiate a school food programme, provide scholastic material and any other needs of the beneficiary school.
Among other obligations, the county government will advocate for the deployment of more teachers, increase teachers’ salaries and investment in education, and ensure fees paid by students are used for food.
The orphanage will represent the foundation and ensure that teachers fully attend classes and ensure that the teachers are motivated.
“All of us have a responsibility to care for orphaned children. I am surprised and touched to see their suffering. We have responsibility, as partners and the community, to help them in all spheres of their lives,” said Almudena Barbero, head of Nzuri Daima.