It is no surprise that the home of the longest civil war in African history has faced it's share of challenges. But one of the areas that continues to be affected most by the conflict and upheaval in South Sudan is, without a doubt, education. The nation in the northeast of Africa is said to the have the worst literacy rate in the world, with only 17% of it's adults being able to read. 70% of South Sudanese children between the ages of 6 and 17 have never set foot inside a classroom. And only 1 out of every 10 children that are able to attend primary school actually complete their studies. Quality learning environments are few and far between in South Sudan. And among the students, only 30% of them are female.
The importance of promoting girls' access to education is paramount. The lack of textbooks and qualified teachers in South Sudan have proven themselves to be formidable obstacles. However, the issues of child marriage and teenage pregnancy have created issues for young women that seem almost insurmountable. Along with the lack of funding and the underdevelopment of school infrastructure, many still believe that girls have far more value as wives than they do as students. Statistics show that half of the girls living in South Sudan between the ages of 15 and 19 are married. It is not uncommon for a girl as young as 12 to be married off by her family in exchange for cattle or money. In a culture where many seem to think that domestic duties and schooling cannot live side by side, countless girls are forced to trade in their books and goals for a life of chores and child bearing.
The government in South Sudan has recognized how essential it is to educate young girls and women. They have taken part in several programs, including the 2008 Child Act and Transitional Constitution . In doing so, they have advanced the rights of girls to a free education and the Child Act states that a young woman cannot be expelled from an educational program due to pregnancy, which had been a major issue in previous years. South Sudan has also enacted what is known as the Alternative Education System that affords those that have not been able to access formal education the opportunity to attend school. Nearly 70,000 girls, many of them pregnant or mothers, have taken advantage of this program.
Even with this kind of progress, delivering quality education to the girls of South Sudan continues to have it's road blocks. It is imperative that these barriers between young women and effective schooling are broken down. Educating girls with give them confidence. It will show them that they are worth so much more than their "bride price". Their opportunities for employment will increase along with their ability to lead their families out of poverty. Studies show that women that are educated have healthier children that are more likely to become educated as well. There is also evidence that when there is greater involvement from educated women within a country, the government and citizens tend to shy away form violence, terrorism, and extremism. Educated women are the gateway to community development and economic growth.To educate a woman is to education her nation.