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850, 000 children are enrolled in south Sudan schools - UN

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April 1, 2007 (JUBA) — 850,000 children are enrolled in school today in Southern Sudan – a major increase from an estimated 343,000 during the war. Many of these students have joined school in the single year since the ‘Go to School’ initiative was launched on 1 April 2006.

The ‘Go to School’ initiative, led by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Government of Southern Sudan, and supported by UNICEF, aims to get 1.6 million children into school by the end of 2007.

Millions of school bags, books, pencils and other essential learning materials, including resources for teachers, have been delivered to schools using trucks, river barges and even helicopters in order to reach the most remote locations.

The Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Michael Milli Hussein, said, “Education takes centre stage in the reconstruction of Southern Sudan. We need a determination that is unshaken to provide education to the children of Southern Sudan who have lost too many opportunities due to war.”

The Minister urged a concerted effort to achieve the overall objective of getting 1.6 million children to school: “Southern Sudan has already lost a generation to war; we can’t afford to lose yet another generation to illiteracy. Now is the time to act.”

Of the 850,000 children now in school, 34 percent are girls, a significant milestone in overturning taboos that restrict girls from obtaining an education.

Speaking on Education Day, which coincides with the anniversary of the launch of the ‘Go to School’ initiative, the Director of UNICEF Southern Sudan, Simon Strachan, underlined the need to provide access to school as well as retain students in the classrooms.

“Education is the single most important investment for Southern Sudan. We need to do everything in our power to keep the classroom doors open for the children in Southern Sudan,” Strachan said.

The two-decade war that ended in January 2005 left Southern Sudan’s infrastructure in tatters. Of the 2,922 schools currently operating in Southern Sudan, only 16 percent are permanent buildings.

The ’Go to School’ initiative is supporting the development of over 200 new permanent classrooms, along with the rehabilitation of nearly 300 existing classrooms. Over 400 emergency classroom tents have already been provided to ensure shelter for outdoor schools while permanent construction gets underway.

Over 2,500 teachers were trained in 2006. In 2007, the ’Go to School’ initiative aims to reach a further 5,000 teachers through intensive English language training and fast-track training in teaching methodologies.

The ‘Go to School’ initiative provides an unprecedented opportunity to reverse the worst effects of the war, thanks to generous contributions from donors including the Governments of Japan, Denmark and the Netherlands; The US fund for UNICEF; and the German and Swiss National Committees for UNICEF, among many others.

UNICEF is appealing for $30 million for education in Southern Sudan to train teachers; construct permanent schools; build capacity; and provide the much-needed learning materials that will help pupils stay in the classroom and obtain a quality education. Pledges so far cover about 30 percent of this amount.

(UNICEF)

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