In Renk, South Sudan, children in a camp for returnees meet Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.

In South Sudan, many girls are missing out on school

Today, July 9, South Sudan celebrates its first anniversary. Since independence, education has been a key priority for the government. But many challenges remain – especially girls’ access to education.

It’s been a rough start for the world’s youngest country. South Sudan is currently host to about 175,000 refugees according to UN estimates. On Thursday, the UN Security Council decided to extend its peacekeeping mission – UNMISS – for another year, given the insecure environment. The relationship with Sudan remains tense; in January, South Sudan decided to cut its supply of oil to the North, a decision that meant losing 98% of the country’s annual revenue.

In such an unstable environment, it is vital that education remains a high priority. The young country still has a long way to go. As we found in our policy paper on South Sudan, there are over 1.3 million primary school age children out of school, and enrolment in secondary education is the lowest in the world. Young girls face extreme disadvantages in access to education. There are just 400 girls in the last grade of secondary education in the entire country. As a result, South Sudan has one of the lowest female literacy rates in the world.

“Our parents look at us and see hundreds of cows,” Winny Nyilueth Athian, a South Sudanese eighth grader told the website The Niles. The cows she refers to are the dowry parents receive for marrying off their daughters. “They see the education of girls as of little use and they also think schooling devalues their cultural beliefs.”

The importance of giving girls education was once again highlighted when the National Bureau of Statistics launched South Sudan’s first statistical yearbook – with a primary focus on education and health – last week. Households with female heads are more often poor than those headed by men, the report finds. But as education of heads and members of households increases, so does the income. The launch of the yearbook is important. As South Sudan’s Vice President Riek Machar said, “Without information, we cannot target appropriate relevant policies. Without relevant information, we cannot choose priorities.”

In what might seem like hopeless circumstances, there are reasons to remain optimistic about the country’s future. Most important, the government remains committed to education. Furthermore, the European Union donated US$14.3 million last month, earmarked for strengthening primary education, with a particular focus on reducing drop-out rates, especially for girls.

But more aid to education in South Sudan is vital if the country is to get anywhere near the Education for All goals. Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown argued in a paper published in April that US$400 million of annual aid – supplemented by US$100 million from the government of South Sudan – was necessary to make a real difference. This package, the paper argued, would result in 1 million more primary school age children in school and the required financial support for half a million girls, among other achievements.

Photo: In Renk, South Sudan, children in a camp for returnees meet Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. (UN Photo/Isaac Billy)



  1. Sudanese people in older to cope with the life now the a need to introduce vocational training so that all youth can be equiped with necessary employable skills to cope with life

  2. It is heart warming to know that Sudan has gained independence. It is disheartening to learn that females remain disadvantaged with regard to education. When do you feel there will be a true difference in education for the females in Sudan?

  3. The lack of education is influenced by the lack of funding, but how much more is it lacking in South Sudan because education is not valued? How do we raise the priority for eduction among the parents and other family members. I fear that pouring money into primary and secondary education for women without educating the parents may be fruitless.

  4. It is important to keep education a priority even during hard times. Education is what will help developing countries have a brighter future. South Sudan needs to realize that girls deserve the right to an education just as much as boys do. Without a quality education, there is little chance of the children making a better life for themselves.

  5. what compells education in SouthSudan for girls is the fact that girls are looked at as many animals and so they are not valued like other girls in other developed countries. but knowing little that these girls who are denied education in south Sudan may be the pillars of this young nation in future because men get education and resort to fighting, corruption, tribalism, segregation among others. I urge that we should put our hands together for the Education of girls in southsudan.

  6. Most educated women /Girls are able to handle their family well than Men, so educating girls means educating the whole of south sudan

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