Ten-year-old Nyakor has never been to school.
Donate to the East Africa food crisis appeal Every day, she wakes up while it’s still dark, lights a fire and boils up seeds gathered from a nearby tree to make her brothers’ breakfast. It’s the only meal the family eats all day and despite being the one to prepare it, she eats the smallest amount.
Like over 1.9 million people in South Sudan, Nyakor is living in a camp for internally displaced people.
“I am always hungry,” she says. “These days my brothers do not bring much fish, so I get the soup and wild leaves and I give them the small fish. I eat least and last.”
Girls disproportionately affected by crisis
When food is scare in emergency situations, it’s commonly assumed that girls will eat less. Boys are encouraged to eat more because it is believed they use more energy being active while girls are expected to be reserved.
While her brothers spend the day fishing, Nyakor and her younger sister stay at home cleaning her family’s compound and tending to their goats at the camp in South Sudan’s Lakes State.
Nyakor isn’t alone in being out of education. None of the girls her age in the camp go to school.
Out of school and at risk of early marriage
According to Unicef, close to 76% of primary-school-age girls in South Sudan are missing out on an education because of the conflict and food crisis.
“It’s enough that we send one of our sons to school,” says Nyakor’s mother, 56-year-old Agog. “She must stay here with me and help me fetch water and firewood and gather seeds from the trees.”
I eat least and last.
Nyakor says that even if she had her mother’s blessing to go to school, she wouldn’t feel equipped to be there. “I have no uniform and books for school,” she says. “I don’t have anything suitable to wear.”
Most of Nyakor’s friends also work at home alongside their mothers. Several others have recently been married to grown men. Many families are barely eating one meal per day so they see keeping their girls at home or selling them into child marriages as a way to save money or gain life-saving resources.
Food supplies keep girls in school
Plan International’s Food for Education programme has been helping to keep girls and boys across South Sudan in school by providing them with school meals. The girls also receive food rations to share with their families as it serves as an incentive to parents to keep them in school.
We are also providing children with school supplies and are distributing live-saving food and nutrition to communities, reducing the burden on girls to find it for their families.
In spite of her bleak situation, Nyakor is hopeful that one day she will be able to go to school.
“I look forward to wearing a uniform one day and attending classes, not spending the whole day working like I do now,” she says.