Minister of State at DfiD and Foreign Office Minister for Africa, Rory Stewart MP along with Becks Buckingham, Country Director of DFID South Sudan, visited Malakal, the capital of the Upper Nile region, last Friday to witness the impact of UK aid.
The Minister visited Malakal PoC New Extension West Basic School (Primary 1 - Primary 8 classes). The school has been supported by GESS since 2015, through Capitation Grants, Cash Transfers and School-Based Governance trainings. The Minister met with the Head Teacher, Deputy Head Teacher, members of the School Management Committee (including the Head Girl and Head Boy), and Cash Transfer recipients (41 girls from the Upper Primary classes).
In Academic Year 2016, GESS supported 4 schools in the Protection of Civilians (PoC) site and one school in Malakal Town. This year, 11 schools in the PoC and 7 in Malakal Town are in the system and we hope to reach them with GESS activities in the coming months.
Primary 7 student, 17-year-old Nora (see pictured), told the Minister that she will receive the Cash Transfer this year. She said that it will help her to attend school and ultimately fulfil her dream of becoming a doctor. She hopes to buy shoes, a bag, a school uniform and exercise book. However, there are no uniforms available to buy in the market at the PoC and the few items that are available are very expensive. Regardless, her family work hard to support her education and Nora is confident that she will remain in school.
169 girls received Cash Transfers last year and 151 girls were recently validated to receive Cash Transfers this year. Although this is less than last year, there has been a drop in enrolment since 2016 of almost 200 girls, so the figure is promising in terms of retention of girls in Upper Primary classes.
The school is facing many challenges, including that of the transitory nature of the population of the PoC. Many children are coming and going and are not afforded a stable education. Parents may decide to move outside of the PoC, or to migrate to Sudan, due to the lack of space for schools and learning. There are also security risks associated with the long walk to school through PoC sectors, and more generally speaking, outbreaks of fighting that contribute to a threatening environment, especially for girls.
The ongoing conflict has disrupted education for many students. Realising the benefit of a basic education, many overage learners are returning to school through Accelerated Learning Programmes (ALPs). ALPs deliver a compressed basic school curriculum, which allows learners to catch up on their education and re-enter the formal system. GESS is supporting the ALP Centre in Malakal PoC. In 2016 the school used their Capitation Grant (CG) of 37,794 SSP for teacher incentives, building materials and building labour costs. This year there are 547 learners enrolled and the centre will benefit from a Capitation Grant of 92,750 SSP.
GESS has also partnered with Internews to load ‘Our School’ radio show onto SD cards. These were rolled out as part of Internews' distributions of solar wind-up radios to community groups across Malakal POC. ‘Our School’ is also broadcast on Nile FM - the Internews radio station in the POCs. It is hoped that this social and behaviour change communication will help to create positive and lasting change in terms of attitudes towards girls' education.
The challenges within the Malakal PoC are countless and ever-changing. The Minister got a glimpse of the great need and the importance of Education in Emergencies (EiEs), "The impact the conflict has had on the lives of so many vulnerable people here is shocking. I am proud to see the UK at the forefront of the international response, saving and protecting lives in South Sudan".