October 25, 2012 (JUBA) – The United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DIFID) has unveiled nearly 10 million textbooks worth about US $16m, to boost primary school education in the world’s newest nation.
Up to two million children, officials say, will benefit from the books, developed by South Sudan’s General Education and Instructions ministry and revised to meet the primary syllabus, as well as provide schools with completely up-to-date books for today’s pupils and teachers.
Lynne Featherstone, the UK International Development minister said the textbooks would help two million children become the literate and that skilled young South Sudanese require better long-term support.
“Education is fundamental to everything we do – it is the key to a country’s development and beating poverty and it is the greatest investment we can make. It is right that we use our aid to help the people of South Sudan to build a better future for themselves and their communities,” said Featherstone at the launch of the books in Juba, the South Sudan capital.
“The UK will continue to support the South Sudan government as it develops its education policies and hopes to increase the number of children who finish basic primary and secondary education,” she added.
The education initiative, Featherstone said, marks the ongoing commitment Britain and South Sudan have towards the children of the young nation.
To-date, South Sudan, which attained its independence in July, last year still faces enormous challenges. For instance, only 40% of children in the country reportedly start primary school, with just 10% completing.
Joseph Ukel Abango, South Sudan’s General Education and Instruction minister said the newly launched textbooks would reduce the country’s reliance on its neighbours for primary school books.
“In the past, we used to have six pupils depending on one book, but with these new textbooks, each pupil will now be entitled to a book in primary schools all over South Sudan,” assured the minister.
The books, he added, will boost the country’s effort to implement its strategic plan, reportedly in line with the newly passed General Education Bill.
Aggrey Tisa Sabuni, the Presidential Advisor on Economic Affairs described DFID as South Sudan’s most “committed” and “innovative” donor since the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
“This year alone, the UK government has provided nearly $49m to support various sectors in South Sudan,” he said, citing the basic service care services, which covers the health, water and sanitation sectors.
South Sudan, which suffered decades of civil war, has one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world, with only 27% of its population said to be literate. The figure of illiterate people is put at nearly 80% of the people in South Sudan, according to the country’s statistical bureau, can neither read nor write.