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South Sudan: UNICEF urges parents to send children to school

April 29, 2021 (JUBA) – The UN Children Fund (UNICEF) has urged parents and caregivers across South Sudan to send their children to schools, scheduled to officially open on Monday next week.

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Students take part in an English class at a government school in Bentiu on November 13, 2010 (AFP)

Most schools have been closed for 15 months due to COVID-19 restrictions, but candidate classes resumed in October last year.

“I would like to congratulate the Ministry of General Education and Instruction on the decision to reopen schools, a good decision for children,” said UNICEF South Sudan Representative Hamida Lasseko.

“We wish all the students and all teachers best of luck,” she added.

Before the pandemic, UNICEF said, 2.8 million children were out of school due to poverty, inequalities, cultural beliefs and nomadic lifestyles. However, with the COVID-19 closure, an additional two million children were reportedly sent home.

The agency said it remains particularly concerned about girls as the enrollment rate for females was very low before the pandemic, and there are multiple reports about increase in child marriage and early pregnancies during the school closure.

Many of these girls might not return to school, it further stressed.

“My appeal is to all parents in South Sudan; please send your sons and daughters to school. I’m calling upon religious and community leaders to use their influence to mobilize children to return to their classrooms. I’m calling upon Members of Parliament and Government leaders to encourage their community members to send children to school,” said Lasseko.

Meanwhile the agency said it is supporting the South Sudan Ministry of General Education and Instruction by providing soap to improve hygiene and close to 900,000 face masks will be distributed to children and teachers. 200 new boreholes will be drilled, ensuring clean drinking water for the students and surrounding communities.

2.7 million textbooks based on the new South Sudan curriculum have been printed and 1.9 million of them already distributed, it noted.

According to UNICEF, at least 72% of children in the world’s newest nation leave school before finishing primary education due to marriage and economic factors.

(ST)