John started primary school in 2006 at the age of 18. Even in South Sudan, where many students have missed a few years of education because of conflict or being too poor to pay their school fees, this is quite late.
John tells us that when he was young, his father passed away. He, as the eldest son, was responsible for helping his mother look after and provide for his three younger brothers. On top of their personal hardship, his village was attacked during the civil war and one of his brothers was killed during the fighting. The whole village was uprooted and scattered to different areas. After his village was destroyed John, his mother and his two remaining brothers ended up moving to a new town, where they lived in an unofficial make-shift camp.
On average only about 30% of people who are displaced by conflict are able to find shelter in an official humanitarian camp, where they can register to receive aid including tents, food and medical supplies. Most of them end up like John and his brothers, moving to unofficial camps on the edge of towns. This is often difficult as the ‘host’ communities don’t have a lot of extra resources or jobs available to help out those fleeing conflict.
John ended up moving to Rumbek, a bigger town to look for work and provide for his remaining family. He was able to find odd jobs, but he saw that if he had an education, things would be much easier.
In his own words he ‘got the feeling’ to go back to school and learn.
With some of the money he had managed to save, he was able to pay his own school fees. It was tough learning for the first time. Classrooms in South Sudan are often overcrowded with 100 students per teacher and almost no books or learning resources. John joined the Speak-Up programme to get extra support with his studies.
Speak-Up is a twice-weekly radio education programme, which provides basic English education. Students can listen to broadcasts from home, or complete a 6-month tutored course if they wish to earn a certificate. John says the reason he attends the Speak-Up radio programme classes, is because it provides him with opportunities to practice spoken English which he does not get in the classroom.
Africa Educational Trust designed Speak-Up classes for people who were forced to drop-out of education because of conflict. However, there are also many students interested in the course who are also enrolled in formal schooling. As of 2011, English is now the official language of South Sudan and should be taught in all government schools. However, the recent change means that many teachers aren’t used to teaching in English. Speak-Up helps students young and old become familiar with their new national language.
Radio education helps students keep learning even when schools and lessons get disrupted.
Radio lessons are low-cost, low-profile ways to provide lessons. This makes them perfect to reach large numbers of people, even when conflict continues to plague a region.
Africa Educational Trust has been using radio broadcasts and pre-recorded lessons to provide basic literacy and numeracy education across the regions where we work for over 15 years.
Susan believes that education will be the key to unlocking a better future for her children and family.