By Bonifacio Taban Kuich
September 19, 2013 (BENTIU) - Authorities in South Sudan’s Unity state launched an education programme on Thursday to increase the number girls who attend school to complete primary and secondary school.
- Peter Gai Joak, Unity state’s minister of education during an interview in Bentiu, 19 Sept. 2013 (ST)
The project is funded by United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID). It will be implemented by Windle Trust International and Universal Intervention for Development Organization, a local NGO based in Unity state.
Thousands of primary and secondary school students attended the launch of the five-year education project.
Peter Gai Joak, Unity state’s minister of Education, Science and Technology, told attendees that the project will pave the way for free access to education by girls across the state.
“Today we are very happy [and] excited to have this project launch so that our girls benefit from this project of five years and I wish this will be a golden opportunity for the children of this state or the girls of this state”, the education minister said.
Since 2005, the ruling Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) has attempted to use positive discrimination to ensure that at least 25% of government jobs are held by women. However, this goal has not been achieved, in part due to the poor literacy levels of South Sudanese women.
Joak said that if girls’ education is prioritized it will encourage more women to compete with men in the jobs market.
"You know South Sudan has been talking of 25% for female, now if we have taught women we may not even talk of 25%, they can always compete in the jobs market. They can be politicians, they can be ministers, they can be governor[s], they can be commissioners it should not be limited to percentage as people say 25% or 35%”, added the minister.
The high incidence of school dropout among girls is due to early marriages, Joak noted.
He said that South Sudan’s parliament and education ministry will work to draft a new law to end the practice of marrying off their daughters for dowries before they have finished their education.
Regina Nyajima Duop, a secondary student in Bentiu town, expressed her happiness over the new education project, adding that the government should double its effort to persuade parents to allow girls to go to school.
"We are suffering because our fathers and mothers, they don’t want us to go school. We are suffering now. We are also happy to the ministry of education to bring this programme”, said Duop.
Maria Ruai, another student from Bentiu A Secondary School, said launching the girl’s education project will help parents learn about the importance of educating their daughters.
“Yes it will help, I have seen it. It will help because other people are coming here. Those who don’t know what is being done here they have just come because when they see how we speak and how we show ourselves to people because we don’t fear they will believe and take their girls to education”, added Raui.
Dowries are often the only way for some South Sudanese families to improve their financial and social standing as livestock and other gifts are exchanged.