South Sudan: make education and skills training first priority

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[Juba, South Sudan, TCT] A nation’s progress is based not on the natural resources it has but on critical mass of educated populace that have the knowhow to convert available resources into useable and profitable products.

[Juba, South Sudan, TCT] A nation’s progress is based not on the natural resources it has but on critical mass of educated populace that have the knowhow to convert available resources into useable and profitable products.

No doubt that South Sudan as a nation, is endowed with natural resources including the oil; (putting the country the third largest African country with oil reserve), the River Nile which runs through the middle of the country from the Southern border to the North; the wildlife and many other minerals yet to be exploited.

Many are aware that South Sudan has been in war for a long time. This has led to destruction of few institutions of learning with existing few performing at a bare minimum. It could be true in some extent that the war has denied the country opportunities for meaningful development. Institutions of learning from levels of early education to the highest have not been established. Records show South Sudan has five moribund public universities and two other private universities. Unicef reports also indicate that school age children in millions are out of school due to lack of schools and insecurity.

The many years of civil wars have not made it possible for the growth of human skills. Many educated generations either have been killed during or have resettled abroad. But the worse thing is that since independent, there are not many strides made in the new country to plug the generational gaps in the education sector. Worth still, there are no evidence of existing concrete plans to ensure the education of the current generation of children is guaranteed.  There are no convincing and functional national strategies for education.

Many donor driven programs carry some policy statements made by the country’s Ministry of higher education, and Science and technology but the impact of such has not been seen.

Facilities to ensure conducive learning environment at public universities are limited or lacking. Public universities too are understaffed in addition to irregular admission of
students. The main complaint always has been lack of enough budgetary allocations.

South Sudan has no known national boarding high schools that admit students from the all corners of the country. From independent day in 2011, the nation has not revealed an educational strategy to its citizens. In the then Sudan there were national secondary schools including Rumbek, Atar, Loka, Malek, among others that produced the current crop of leaders leading the nation. During the years 2005-2011 when Southern Sudan was given semi-autonomy status and then during the post independent years; no efforts have been done to make education a national priority.

Besides, in my own village from the county with a population of more than 65,000 people, there is no a single secondary school! Available structures of the few primary schools were built by UN agencies; non-was built by the government. This is a cross cutting issue in the entire country.


When Kenya attained independent in 1963; one of the notable leaders at the time, Tom Mboya organized a scholarship for the bright young Kenyans to study mostly in The United States. That program produced most of the leaders that served under Presidents Moi, Kibaki and even at the current Kenyan Government. This is a noble example of a leadership that values education and recognize it as the main driving force of both economic and social change for the country and her people. Kenya is partly where it is
because of such initiatives by her leaders who championed education as the key pillar to ensure a nation’s progress.

At our independence, there was a wind of good will blowing all over the whole world and especially among the TROIKA countries of USA, UK and Norway. The TROIKA nations played a critical role during the liberation struggle and ensuring the right of self-determination as was enshrined in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in January 2005
was respected which culminated in the birth of the Republic of South Sudan.

Unfortunately, the government took less focus to invest on basic education. Organizations like UNICEF and others are trying their best and putting efforts to take back to classroom thousands of school going children.

Fight war against illiteracy

A country with a literacy rate of just 27% according to the 2008’s Housing and Population Census should have made education as a priority to speedily bridge that gap. Many may agree with me that a lot has not changed since then in term of increasing the literacy rate. The high illiteracy is making efforts to increase access to finance difficult. You cannot win a fight to increase financial literacy if there are no efforts being made in fighting illiteracy. Yes, we can use pictorial and many other teaching aids that can best communicate to the illiterate population but this cannot bear fruit when the scale is this massive.

We need to focus as a country on educating our population. We cannot extract natural resources without human resources to implement. Depending on expatriate is not sustainable in the end. The unstopping rounds of conflict in this country are due to lack of education as masses of youth are vulnerable to politicians out to capitalize on their ignorant to trick them to fighting ‘against marginalization’ when in fact they are being used to fight political wars for the politician.

Invest on skills trainin

It will greatly help the government to promote employment of youths, but only when the youths are empowered and equipped with employable skills which can land them to work with private and public sectors. If more youths are given opportunity to access skills or vocational training, it would minimise the challenge of many youths joining malitia groups.

This is because enlightened youths cannot be misled and they will always stand up for the truth and exploitation by any person who does not mean good. Therefore, our government may have to focus on promoting access to education especially the basic and secondary education. Investment on skills training to the youth is urgent step to empower the youth, specially those who might have outgrown to enroll for primary and secondary school. Vocational training canhelp the youth acquire some skills for immediate employment in the labour market. Skills training will also help the youth to create business ventures, become business owners, and create employment for themselves and others.

It is not too late for the government to consider investing and prioritizing education and vocational training for the nation. The government will benefit from the critical mass of skilled human resources that they can easily tap into and use it as driver for spurring economic growth.

Mr. Yak is the Managing Director of South Sudan Microfinance Development Facility (SSMDF); he is an alumnus of Harvard Kennedy School’s Executive Education Program on Rethinking Financial Inclusion: Smart Design for Policy & Practice; he is also a fellow at the African Board Fellowship (ABF) at ACCION. This article first appeared on his blog, and here published with permission.


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