South Sudan crisis forces girls out of school

16 JUNE 2017

Around 76% of primary school aged girls in South Sudan are not receiving an education because of the conflict and food crisis in the country. Their futures and safety are at risk as a result.

Plan International partner organisation Unicef published a press release on 24 April, stating that at primary school level, close to 76% of girls in South Sudan are missing out on an education because of the conflict and food crisis.*

Responding, Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, chief executive of Plan International, said “Children in South Sudan are facing a triple tragedy in the form of brutal conflict, famine and denial of their right to an education. Our teams in South Sudan can confirm that almost three-quarters of the country’s primary school aged children are missing out on an education.”

Girls’ futures at risk

“More than 40% of South Sudan’s population, 4.9 million people do not have enough food to eat,” said Albrectsen. “This has meant that thousands of children, mostly girls, are kept out of school to do housework or help their families search for food.

“In times of food crisis, families often see the value in sending their boys to school, but many prefer to keep their girls at home to do housework or help them to find food. Shockingly, it’s also common for them to be sold into early marriages in exchange for cattle.

Girls are kept out of school to do housework or help their families search for food

“Many families are eating barely one meal per day so they see keeping their girls at home or selling them into marriage as a useful way to save money or gain lifesaving resources, especially as women and children in the villages have been left to fend for themselves. In village after village, most of the men are missing, gone in search of new pastures for their livestock or to fight in the conflict.”

Support for girls

Plan International’s Food for Education programme has been helping to keep girls and boys in school by providing pupils in Eastern Equatoria, Jonglei and Lakes states 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 supporting schools to provide girls with sanitary facilities and dignity kits to encourage them not to miss lessons. We are also launching anti-violence clubs to help ensure children affected by the conflict can feel safe at school.

*Unicef’s press release also stated that at 72%, South Sudan has the highest rate of primary school aged children out of school in conflict zones across 22 countries. At the lower-secondary school level, South Sudan has the second highest rate of out of school children, at 60%, behind Niger (68%).