BY: Ireneaus Sindani, Kenya, JUN/28/2013, SSN; The series of South Sudan leadership issue continue. I hope many of you are not tired of the arguments. On the other hand I hope we are educating ourselves. This time around I would like to focus specifically on education in South Sudan. This is because education is a catalyst. It is a catalyst for development and change. Education brings wisdom and honour.
Education broods prosperity for individuals and the society. It brings health for all particularly when the child girl is educated. Education widens our perceptions and aspirations. It urges us to aim high and to ignore the unpalatable concepts. Education teaches us to judge the good and the bad. It brings morality and respect for one another. Education emancipates us from the bondage of inwardness and puts us on the path of forward looking. It gives us the power and intellect to think, challenge and prove. It makes us more wiser so that we can use prove and evidence for our judgement, arguments, discussions, conclusions and decision making.
Education liberates us from what we perhaps might have conceived to be the truth by tradition or upbringing. Education is the key to individual and national development. It is the basis for discovery and scientific advancement. Therefore, all in all education is the panacea of all that we aspire and desire in our world or nation for that matter.
According to Oxford Dictionary, “education is defined as the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university. A course of education is the theory and practice of teaching while colleges of education is a body of knowledge acquired while being educated. This is an encyclopaedic and eclectic information about or training in a particular subject such as health education, engineering, medicine etc”. The free online dictionary defines education as the, “act or process of educating or being educated, the knowledge or skill obtained or developed by a learning process, a program of instruction of a specified kind or level such as college education, the field of study that is concerned with the pedagogy of teaching and learning and an instructive or enlightening experience”.
For the purpose of this article, the keys words in these definitions are body of knowledge or skills acquired, being educated and enlightening experience. This means without education one cannot acquire the knowledge and skills needed to be applied for personal and national development. Lack of education means lack of adeptness, aptitude, manoeuvrability, flexibility, judgement, prediction, selectivity, differentiation, foresight, desirability, logic and perceptions. Lack of education means parting with intelligentsia, rational, abstract and didactic thinking.
Lack of education means the power to balance ego and id is weakened thus creating behavioral disharmony. Enlightening experience is an important agent of change in any society because experiences learnt somewhere can influence change whether positive of negative. Experience has made great men and women to advance in society or create great societal change that have advanced humanity. Experience is the master of behavior and commonality.
Having illustrated the importance or others may call it the evil of education as the Boko Haram say that western education is evil and is non grata in Nigeria, my mind wants to focus on the pathetic educational situation in South Sudan. I would like to focus on this issue for three important reasons. First whether our leaders plainly consider education as important for development of South Sudan. Secondly whether they think all children in South Sudan should have universal access to education and thirdly whether educating the children of the South Sudanese bourgeoisies or elites will lead to development of South Sudan.
However, I would like to look at the educational realities as depicted by the review by Gordon Brown, the former Prime Minister of Great Britain who is keen to revive education in South Sudan. According to the review, South Sudan is anchored to the bottom of international league of the 121 countries in the world for which comparative data on almost any measure of performance is available. South Sudan ranks second lowest for primary education while it is ranked the lowest out of 134 countries for secondary education.
Please allow me to quote all the disturbing data from Brown report. In South Sudan, “fewer than half of primary school age children are in school. The net enrolment rate is just 44 per cent, implying that children in the relevant age range are out of school. Secondary school enrolment is reported at less than 10 per cent. Drop rates are very high. Using 2009 data, the World Bank put the gross enrolment rate at 14.5 per cent for grade one, falling to just 8 per cent at grade eight. Enrolment rates in South Sudan are far below the average levels for sub Africa – and these figures mask the marked disparities across states”.
According to this report, there is high and gender disparity in South Sudan primary schools. It indicated that, “in 2010 there were just under half million children in the first grade of primary school. By the eighth grade that figure had fallen to just over 20,000 with fewer than 7,000 girls”.
As these figures suggest, “many children enter school only to drop out before gaining basic literacy skills. Over one-quarter drop between grades 1 and 2 and just only 16% of students enrolled at grade 1 complete primary education. The rate for girls is 9% , underlining the cumulative effect of gender inequalities”.
Furthermore, the reports says, attrition rates in secondary education are equally marked, as are gender disparities. Only around 400 girls are reported to be enrolled in secondary school. As this data illustrates,” South Sudan’s girls face
a triple disadvantage. In an education system that offers limited opportunities for all children, girls are the last in, the first out and the least likely to make it to secondary school. Taking into account both primary and secondary school, no country in the world ranks lower than South Sudan on measure of gender inequality”.
Having looked at these statistics, it appears the leadership in South Sudan does not consider education as the fundamentals of national development. However, the contrary is true because no nation will ever progress without educated workforce. First and foremost, South Sudan needs literate society that can read and understand our constitution and other legal documents. This is quite important for the people to be informed and to make informed decisions. They must understand their legal and human rights so as to undertake their national obligations properly, effectively and efficiently including their democratic rights. South Sudan needs educated traders, farmers and cattle herders who are able to understand the rules and mechanism of their trade and tools of their trade.
South Sudan needs artisans and other middle class professionals such as builders, masons, carpenters, nurses, midwives, laboratory technicians and technologists, medical assistants or clinical officers, theatre attendants, IT specialists etc. This category of cadre is the one that can build our cities, treat 75% of patients in the villages, connect us to the outside world via the web, introduce basic technology to South Sudan, educate our children before joining the higher education. They construct our roads, bridges and educate our farmers or cattle keepers to adopt new technologists such animal husbandry, crop rotation, introducing high yield crops etc.
The next level of educational production is the what many call professionals but I would like to call them the intelligentsia who plan, research, direct, manage, rule, adjudicate, open up human bodies for purposes of cure, diagnosis or research, lecture in our universities, innovate, discover, design, implant whether human children, plants or diverted sex, initiate aero-engineering and exploration, may be it is called mastering aerodynamics. This cadre is important in order to advance technological and scientific development. They lead and direct the masses, manage development and ensure that the overall development is evidence based planned and managed. Therefore our leaders should evidently know that education is essential for developing the country.
Article 26 of the universal declaration for human rights states the following on the individual right to education. I quote, “(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace. (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children”.
I believe surely that South Sudan has or about to sign this basic document on human rights and by signing this document, the government commits itself to the principles herein and must demonstrate in action that it upholds these principles and also avails the services promulgated.
According to UNESCO, “education is a fundamental human right and essential for the exercise of all other human rights. It promotes individual freedom and empowerment and yields important development benefits. Yet millions of children and adults remain deprived of educational opportunities, many as a result of poverty”.
United Nation and UNESCO have laid down Normative instruments that proscribe member states to the international legal obligations for the right to education to their citizens. “These instruments promote and develop the right of every person to enjoy access to education of good quality, without discrimination or exclusion. These instruments bear witness to the great importance that Member States and the international community attach to normative action for realizing the right to education. It is for governments to fulfil their obligations both legal and political in regard to providing education for all of good quality and to implement and monitor more effectively education strategies”.
Therefore, education is considered to be a powerful tool by which economically and socially marginalized adults and children can lift themselves out of poverty and participate fully as citizens. In this regard by neglecting education in South Sudan, the government is not only violating the rights of its citizens but actually denying them a powerful tool for individual and communal development.
One of the pervasive policy being pursued by the government is that of sending their children and children of their cronies to neighboring countries for education. It true that most children of South Sudanese politicians and their functionaries are studying in Uganda, Kenya and even in far away countries such as Australia, America, Canada, United Kindgom, Norway Egypt and many other countries. Some of these children are paid directly by the government in Juba while others are being supported by money siphoned from Government coffers.
This underscores the fact that the Government has developed cold feet to improve education in South Sudan because their children already have access to good education in these countries. However, this misplaced policy will not lead to the development of the country but will certainly create classicism: a class of few educated children of the haves and many uneducated children of the have nots. When this happens and I am sure it will happen, a fertile ground would have been created for a peasant revolution.
This revolution will definitely target the educated and the bourgeoisie in South Sudan. The consequence of such peasant revolution will certainly be disastrous to all in South Sudan. I really wonder our current crop of politicians would like to see this pass. For heaven’s sake, our politicians and intelligentsia should wake to prevent this catastrophe.
In conclusion the ball of education is in the court of our Government. The Government can either do the right thing to respect the children’s basic human right to education, ensure equal access to education by all children in South Sudan or risk the future peasant revolution which they will have no means to quell.