The learners took their classes but not anymore. Yasin and Berlin are Form Three students, who are among the hundreds benefiting permanent classrooms . The school children do have to endure the discomfort of a hot and congested tent to take their lessons. They are the beneficiaries of a new classroom recently put up at Soba Secondary School in Ajuong Thok by AAH South Sudan through the support of UNHCR. Several other classrooms have also been built at three other primary schools – Napata, Merowe and Third; all in Ajuong Thok Refugee Camp.
According to Mr. Arinde Kuwa, Subo Secondary School's headteacher, the construction of the units has immensely improved learning conditions. "Initially, lessons were conducted under tents which would become extremely hot and make learning difficult and uncomfortable," says Kuwa. Having such facilities was a considered an impossibility, but AAH South Sudan with support of UNHCR funding has made made it possible.
The institution has 1016 pupils out of which only 200 are girls. Retention and transition rates are very high as it is the only secondary school in Ajuong Thok. Each level consists of four streams with a classroom capacity of 60 though the numbers are increasing to 100 with a teacher capacity of 24. The performance success rate stands at 60 per cent. Majority of the students emerge from the refugee community with less than 10 (one per cent) being drawn from the host community.
Five decades of war and upheaval in South Sudan has had an adverse effect on education - almost three-quarters of adults in the world's newest country are unable to read or write. A recent report by the UK's Overseas Development Institute (ODI) holds that less than two per cent of the population has completed a primary school education.
The task of educating South Sudan’s population remains formidable. South Sudan has some of the worst education indicators globally. Estimates suggest that around 1.3 million—approximately 50 percent—of primary school-age children are currently not in school. Out of 123 countries with comparable data, South Sudan ranks second to last in terms of providing children access to primary school. At the secondary school level, the nation ranks last. The probability that a primary-age child living in South Sudan today will enroll for higher education is only one per cent. Moreover, many children who enroll in school never complete their education. Students leave school at high rates throughout primary and secondary school, with an average 26 per cent of students dropping out at each grade level. Finally, the education challenge is not limited to the young. Sixty one percent of adult men are illiterate and a staggering 85 percent of women.
According to Yasin Sulemain and Berlin Yohanna both form 3 students, prior to the building of the classrooms the tents were very congested and they would heat up. But after the classrooms were constructed the learning conditions have remarkably improved. In addition, the building of the computer lab has also given them a niche compared to their colleagues in other schools.
“We are very grateful to AAH South Sudan for all that they have done for us. The construction of the classroom units, toilets, water points and the computer lab has changed the face of this school!” said Yasin.
Despite the many gains that the construction has brought about, there are still so many unmet needs within the school. For instance, the units are still not enough as the form one students still learn in a tent. In addition, the school population is on the rise and there is still dire need to construct more classroom units. The students also expressed the need for lightning/or electricity within the school to enable them study at night. Also due to the high class population, there is need to procure fans for air circulation. Lastly, the students also requested for a library.
Some of the recommendation given by the students is the expansion of the classroom units so that they can take in more students in order to meet the growing demand.
By Linda K. Ongwenyi, Communications Officer, AAH-I