October 21, 2012 (JUBA) - At least 50 students from South Sudan’s Eastern Equatoria state are set to benefit from three-year undergraduate teaching scholarships in Ethiopia, as part of a strategic partnership agreement the two countries signed in March this year.
- Fre Tesfamichael Tesfatsion, the Ethiopian ambassador to South Sudan addressing the students, October, 21, 2012 (ST)
The education scholarship, granted by the State Government of Southern Nations, Nationalities and the Peoples Regional State in Ethiopia, only targeted students drawn from various parts of the state.
The three-year diploma programme, officials says, will enormously contribute to the development of the teaching profession in a country, where teacher to student ratios are still very low and illiteracy rates extremely worrying.
Rebecca Joshua Okwaci, South Sudan’s Deputy Minister for General Education and Instructions lauded the Ethiopian government for extending such an opportunity to South Sudanese students, describing education as a key pillar for any nation to develop.
“Education is one of the key priorities of this nation, hence the need to fully develop it so our people can benefit from good quality education service,” she said.
The deputy minister, while speaking at the students’ farewell occasion, also gave a brief historical background to the relationship between Ethiopia and South Sudan, which she said, dates back to the years of South Sudan’s long civil wars.
“The physical war is finished. Now is the time to South Sudanese to focus on capacity building through education,” stressed the deputy minister.
Illiteracy in South Sudan stands at only 27%, a legacy of decades of civil war and underinvestment.
The minister appealed to the students to be good ambassadors to the young nation as they embark on their three-year educational journey in neighboring Ethiopia.
Fre Tesfamichael Tesfatsion, the Ethiopian ambassador to South Sudan said, although education was a priority in the cooperation agreement between the two countries, there is need to also focus on provision of technical skills, among others.
He said the strategic partnership agreement, which the two countries signed on 2 March 2012, also encompassed nine other sectoral agreements, including peace and security, service, governance and the economy.
“However, education is identified as one of the priority areas of the cooperation. We have to work together if we are to develop together,” he emphasized.
The ambassador, further warned to the students, not to go the Ethiopia for “tourism”, but use this initiative as an opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills, which they can apply in their various communities.
Meanwhile, 20 additional South Sudanese students, according to Tesfamichael, have also been earmarked to benefit from graduate level scholarships to be provided by Mekelle University, one of Ethiopia’s leading higher educational institutions.
In a related development, Michael Lopuke, Eastern Equatoria State’s Education minister said the students’ selection criterion was fair and balanced, mainly targeting those who completed secondary level of education.
Lopuke, who was accompanied by his health counterpart, Margaret Itto and other lawmakers from the state, decried the poor state of the road network linking Eastern Equatoria state and it’s neighbouring Ethiopia, which he said prevented the easy movement of people and goods.
“The movement of these students would have been very easy if the road linking these two neighboring states was in good condition,” he said.