Highlighting the importance of literacy in South Sudan, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) distributed educational materials to five Central Equatoria State schools on September 22, including books and other learning materials, classroom supplies including chalk boards, tools for making teaching and learning aids and storage equipment.
The event at Gumbo Primary School in Juba celebrated International Literacy Day, which has been observed annually by United Nations member states since 1966.
South Sudan has one of the world’s lowest literacy rates. According to a 2009 household survey, only 27 percent of people age 15 and over were literate. The rate was even lower among women and girls – only 16 percent age 15 and over were literate.
The conflict that broke out in December 2013 has decreased access to education, as some 400,000 children affected by conflict have been displaced and dropped out of school. Many children and youth have been conscripted to fight, losing access to school. Early and forced marriage and early pregnancy have also contributed to illiteracy among women and girls.
“Literacy is a key driver of sustainable development. To meet South Sudan’s massive development challenges, children must be given the keys to unlock their potential to contribute to the nation’s future,” said U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan Molly Phee. “USAID has a long history of helping to expand access to education and to improve the quality of education. The Room to Learn project is the most recent example of support from the American people for increased literacy in South Sudan.”
Through the Room to Learn project, USAID aims to reach 800,000 out-of-school children and youth over five years, either by directly enrolling them in school; improving retention by addressing the quality, safety and relevance of their instruction; or through distance learning, such as radio instruction for the hardest to reach populations. The program uses a community-based approach to reach out-of-school and marginalized children and youth with emphasis on early grade literacy, gender equity, conflict mitigation and reaching marginalized populations.