UNICEF supports Girls' Education Day in Southern Sudan

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

On 7 July 2008, Southern Sudan celebrated its annual Girls’ Education Day, an opportunity to acknowledge achievements in girls’ enrollment and galvanize action to close the gender gap in education.

This year celebrations were focused in the Lakes State capital of Rumbek where thousands of school children gathered in the town’s Freedom Square. The event, which was attended by representatives of the Government of Southern Sudan, Ministers of Education from all ten States, United Nations and NGO partners, was presided over by the Governor of Lakes State, H.E. Daniel Awet Akot and the Minister of Education, Science and Technology of the Government of Southern Sudan, H.E. Professor Job Dhoruai.

During Sudan’s two decade–long civil war that ended in 2005 with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, it was estimated that only 14 per cent of students enrolled in primary school were girls. In April 2006 the ‘Go to School’ initiative, a major campaign to rebuild the education system and bring 1.6 million children back to the classroom, was launched by the Government of Southern Sudan with UNICEF support. Significant progress has since been achieved with total enrolment currently at approximately 1.3 million, up sharply from an estimated 343,000 during the war.  It is estimated that 34 per cent of the children attending primary school today are girls.

Despite these achievements, for every one of the estimated 1.3 million children at School in Southern Sudan today, there is at least one other who is not, and the great majority of those who remain out of school are girls.
The ‘Go to School’ campaign has provided a step forward in the drive for Southern Sudan to achieve the second and third Millennium Development Goals: universal primary education and gender equality.

His Excellency Job Dhoruai said, “We need to build on what we have achieved and accelerate the enrollment of girls. It’s a responsibility for all of us and I urge parents and community leaders to do their best. Together we can make a real difference”.
UNICEF believes that girls’ education is the single most important investment any nation can make and the benefits of educating girls are enormous. For Southern Sudan to quickly reverse the worst effects of its two decade war and to achieve economic growth and reduce infant mortality, a substantial investment in education is essential, especially for girls.

The Director of UNICEF Southern Sudan, Peter Crowley said, “By investing in the education of the girls of Southern Sudan we will see the biggest returns. Educated women are less likely to die in childbirth and are more likely to send their own children to school. Healthy, educated, empowered women have healthy, educated and confident sons and daughters and it is children such as these that Southern Sudan needs if it too is to thrive”.
The active involvement of women leaders and role models as champions of girls’ education is critical to bridging the girl child education gap. To accelerate girls’ education, this year UNICEF is focussing on a number of concrete actions to support the Government of Southern Sudan, among them the Promotion and Advocacy for Girls Education (PAGE), a programme that uses community-based advocacy groups made up of youth, women and other opinion leaders to influence communities, parents and community leaders and government to support girls’ education.
UNICEF calls for committed investment in girls’ education as a key to Southern Sudan’s stability and development. UNICEF is appealing for $ 15 million for its education programmes in Southern Sudan this year, which will provide the much needed learning materials to keep children coming to school, the training of teachers, construction of permanent schools and vital capacity building.