2.2 million children are missing out on education and children demand schools to be reopened; Sexual violence and child marriage is on the rise amongst girls in South Sudan; 1 in 3 schools have been damage, destroyed, occupied or closed; Only 3.5% of girls are enrolled in secondary schools.
Save the Children held three consecutive webinars with children across South Sudan on how COVID-19 is affecting their lives whilst they remain at home. Children raised concerns on how COVID-19 has affected their rights to survival, protection and learning. As schools remained closed, violence against children rises. For instance, about 50 schoolgirls are reportedly pregnant in Eastern Equatoria, unknown number in Western Equatoria and other part of the country during this period of COVID-19, according to the Deputy Minister of General Education and Instruction, Martin Tako Moi.
Based on the recent online discussion we had with children across the country, it is evident that children are safer in school than at home. Whilst the decision by the government of South Sudan to close all schools was taken to ensure safety of children, their families and teachers, it is now time to evaluate this decision in light of scientific evidence on risks to children. This means any decision to re-open schools should be done in the best interest of the child and in accordance with the public health protocols to protect children’s health against this deadly virus.
Karina Aman, 15, “Corona virus is affecting us when out of school. Many girls have been impregnated and some boys have lost their lives. So we are asking the government, let them [remove] the lockdown for us to start our schools”.
Amoko Ronnie, 12. “It is affecting business, [which] is reducing the economy of Africa. Economically, it is affecting children mostly and it is now affecting the rights of children. We children have the Right to Education, it’s our right. So if COVID-19 is affecting the children, we need to prevent it”.
Achol Adam, 15, “COVID-19 one of the impact of COVID-19 on us is loneliness. Like now, this one is affecting our rights. We have the right to play with our friends but since the schools have been closed because of the COVID-19, we are no longer playing with our friends”.
The Ministry of General Education and Instruction, Save the Children and other education actors rolled out a radio-learning programme on UN Radio, Miraya FM, but most children continue to stay reluctant at home because they cannot access the platform. Most children in South Sudan are in rural areas and cannot afford the radio. The alternative methods of learning are inadequate, non-inclusive and their effectiveness is not established.
Rama Hansraj, Country Director Save the Children:
“This is very worrying in a country where 2.2 millions of children are missing out on an education. Save the Children support safe school reopening in South Sudan. Within this period of COVID-19 and when schools reopen, Save the Children call for the protection of all children affected by COVID-19 from abuse, exploitation, gender-based violence and neglect, especially girls and the most marginalized, including but not limited to children outside of family care and in schools, children with disabilities, connected children. We urge the national government and key policy makers in the country to ensure that children especially girls are included in the development, design and implementation of preparedness and response plans to the COVID-19 crisis, and ensure that specific measures are in place to ensure their protection”.
Save the Children is a leading education actor in South Sudan and is committed to send more children back to learning after schools reopen.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Save the Children.