“It’s been very hard in South Sudan. In town, prices are really high. If you are a teacher, you make 700 South Sudanese Pounds (roughly $100). But a 15 kg bag of maize, which would only last a family for two days costs 1,200 pounds ($180).
When there is no food, there is no learning. It’s hard for teachers to teach and hard for children focus and learn. We have a saying ‘a home without a kitchen has no discipline’. You can’t force a child to go to and stay in a classroom when they are hungry.
Last week, I visited a school just outside of town. It was the afternoon and I went looking for food. I came across 2 children about 7 and 10 years old who said they hadn’t eaten in three days. They hadn’t gone to class because they were too hungry.
In towns the prices are high, but only in town are the schools open. Most schools have shut down because of the insecurity. If you go just 10 km outside of town the area becomes insecure. Schools which are able to open struggle to run classes. Schools children usually leave home at 8 am to arrive at school between 8:30 and 9:00 am. However, when there is conflict in an area children can’t leave home that early for fear that armed groups might still be on the move. Many parents also struggle to pay for school because inflation hasn’t just driven up the cost of food but also of books, uniforms and fees.”
Our radio education programme, Speak-Up is really important at this time. Many adults across the country missed out on education because of the last conflict and are trying to play catch-up. Currently, the UN estimates 73% of men and 84% of women above 15 years of age are illiterate. However, Speak-Up also helps out-of-school children keep learning. Even when they are not in the classroom they are able to benefit in their own home.
“Speak-Up is a unique programme because the community took part in designing their own curriculum. Lessons go beyond literacy and numeracy. Learners get to hear about how to apologise and avoid conflict, how to live together peacefully, how we all are interconnected and interdependent. After all, no man is an island. Some of the lessons are also very practical like how to run your own small scale business. Because community members got to decide what to learn, what they learn is really relevant to their life. Since lessons are practical, lots of people listen in and attend classes regularly because they see immediately how they can benefit.”