By Deng Machol
Juba – On Thursday, the Government of Norway has provided NOK 90 million [$10 million] to support a safe return to school for children in restive South Sudan.
The funds will ensure as many children as possible are returning to school in the 2020-2021 academic year.
In March 2020, all education facilities were closed due to COVID-19 putting the total number of children out- of- school at a staggering 4.2 million.
According to the children’s agency, children have carried most of the consequences of COVID-19 restrictions and funds have also “dried up.”
Most of the candidate classes in South Sudan resumed in October 2020. The government announced that the rest of the classes will resume in April 2021.
The new funds are also expected to support the provision of nutrition for children and their mothers in flood-affected States.
In the signed agreement between the government of Norway and the UN children agency stated that the funds will be managed by UNICEF.
This flexible funding that comes from Norway allows a complete package for a child to be healthy and learning well, said Andrea Suley, UNICEF’s country acting representative.
“As we all know we need to have a child who is nursed, a child who is safe and has access to water and sanitation so that they are ready to come to school and learn in a safe environment and community around them safe,” Andrea Suley stated.
Suley further said that they will continue supporting teachers and also provide learning materials.
She also revealed that they have a report that shows that many girls are already married off [during the covid 19 pandemic] and are going to miss school.
“With 2.2 million children not enrolled before the pandemic while getting ready for all schools to reopen in a safe way, a massive mobilization of communities and parents is needed to ensure children fill up the classrooms as soon as the reopen,” said Suley
Meanwhile, the Norwegian Ambassador to South Sudan, Siv Kaspersen said her country wants to ensure children return safely to school – especially girls and vulnerable children.
She urged the government to play a greater role in strengthening the education sector.
“This support is aimed at strengthening every effort towards a safe return to learning in South Sudan, support to nutrition for children and their mothers in flood affected States,” said Ms. Kaspersen. “I will also take this opportunity to call upon the government of South Sudan to allocate more finances to the education sector and pay teachers decent salaries on time,” Ms. Kaspersen told those who attended the signing ceremony in Juba, Thursday afternoon.
On the other hand, South Sudan’s Minister of General Education – Awut Deng appreciated the government of Norway for the funds, saying it “comes at the perfect time and such support is vital for the safe reopening of schools.
“Too many children are already missing out on education,” said Deng. As a country, we cannot afford for more children to be left behind and therefore we are thankful for the support from Norway.
“As we are preparing to reopen all schools in April 2020, we believe that these funds will positively contribute to education in South Sudan. It will strengthen our efforts to tackle imposed by Covid-19,” she said.
Development agencies say South Sudan was already one of the countries with the highest proportion of out-of-school children.
This latest contribution is earmarked to education but is said to be flexible to allow UNICEF and other education partners to invest in what is most needed and close existing education gaps.
The Government of Norway is “one of UNICEF’s largest education donors globally and has always been a great supporter of UNICEF’s education programmes in South Sudan.
“The government of Norway is an education partners you can count on,” said Mohamed Ag Ayoya. In a year where children have carried most of the consequences of covid 19 restrictions and funding has dried up, the contribution from Norway is more important than ever to get back on track supporting a better future for children in South Sudan.”
The longer children are out of school due to covid 19 pandemic, and ignited by the current flooding and conflict, remain the harder and challenges, to get them back to the classrooms in the East Africa’s youngest nation.