South Sudan: Schools Reopen After a Year of Closure

By Deng Machol

Hussein Abdelbagi Akol, Vice President in charge of Service Cluster

Juba – School has reopened in East Africa’s youngest nation after closure for more than one year, despite the third surge of COVID-19 pandemic.

Private and public institutions including primary, secondary, and universities, were permitted to resume learning under COVID-19 restricted measures.

Hussein Abdelbagi Akol, Vice President in charge of service cluster, said the decision came in the wake of the recent drop in COVID-19 infections since March.

“COVID-19 is still with us but we have decided to reopen schools and will strictly follow COVID-19 preventative measures in the schools,” Akol told journalists in Juba during the official reopening for learners. “The children are the future of the country. And the states’ government should work with national ministry of General Education to develop the education sector,” he added.

He noted that schools will only operate at half capacity as preventive measures against COVID-19.

As classes resume, the education ministry recommends that only 50 learners will be allowed in a classroom at the primary schools and 45 learners at the secondary schools.

Meanwhile, Ms. Awut Deng Acuil, Minister of General Education and Instruction urged parents and guardians to enroll their children, including pregnant, disability and breast feeding girls. 

Ms. Awut further revealed that the reopening of schools came after the Girls’ Education South Sudan (GESS), an education program, and the Global Partnership for Education, a partnership and funding platform that aims to strengthen education systems in developing countries, provided funds to enable distribution of water sanitation and hygiene supplies, thermometers, reusable masks and menstrual hygiene management kits.

The South Sudan government in partnership with GESS will pay capitation grants, in addition to cash transfers, to girls at levels from primary five (5) to senior fouer (4), Minister disclosed.

Education partners were alarmed by children who dropped out of schools, primarily teenagers who got marriages during lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

On the same event, UNICEF Country representative Hamida Lasseko appreciated the government commitment allowing access to education; while urging the ministry and parents to prioritize children.

“A lot happened to children when they were at home. Unfortunately, some of them were going through many difficulties and challenges, as we all know. And we know this has not been a short period; fourteen months of children being out of school are long,” said Ms. Hamida 

She caution students to keenly observed health prevention measures in class.

The schools were shut down in March 2020 and the government reopened schools in phases with final year students allowed to attend classes in October 2020.

Multiple observers said schools re-opening would reduce risky pregnancy and early marriages among school girls.

Both pupils and students were so happy celebrating school re-opening after lifting the lockdown

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