Schools in areas hit particularly hard by the conflict, including Yei River, parts of Greater Equatoria and Greater Upper Nile, have faced severe difficulties remaining open and functional, while serving an increasingly critical role as safe spaces for children and communities. Akuja de Garang MBE, GESS Team Leader, said: “That pupil enrolment is rising faster than any previous year and is likely to overtake 2016 shows remarkable resilience on the part of South Sudan’s schools, teachers and pupils. Schools are facing unimaginable challenges in various parts of the country and it is imperative that recent improvements in the security situation continue so that all children can go to school without fear.” “What these figures show is that even in the face of conflict, displacement and hunger, pupils still want to learn and communities want to educate their children. We will continue working closely with the Ministry of General Education and Instruction to ensure no South Sudanese child misses out on the opportunity to go to school.”
At a Press Conference in Juba yesterday (21st June, 2017), the Honourable Undersecretary of the Ministry of General Education and Instruction announced that 1.3 million pupils have now been enrolled in the Schools Attendance Monitoring System (SAMS) for the 2017 Academic Year. "We would like to thank our partners UK aid and Girls’ Education South Sudan for their ongoing commitment to education, especially girls’ education, in South Sudan, and their recognition that schools are critical to supporting communities in times of humanitarian crisis." The number of pupils with data uploaded to SAMS - the real-time attendance monitoring system developed as part of GESS – is rising faster than in any previous year and is set to surpass the record set in 2016 of 1.3m pupils enrolled in 3,560 schools, despite the escalation of conflict since July 2016. The Honourable Undersecretary went on to say, "Schools are critical to supporting communities in times of crisis" and they (schools) have "become sanctuaries". As of today, Thursday 22nd June, over 1.3m students have been enrolled in 3,145 schools across the country. The balance of girls to boys is also at its best ever; girls make up a higher proportion of total enrolment than in any previous year, at 44.4% compared to 43% last year. High enrolment achieved in spite of deteriorating humanitarian conditions This year’s enrolment figures are particularly notable given the deterioration of the situation in South Sudan since last year. Following the outbreak of fighting in Juba in July 2016, the humanitarian crisis has deepened, and UN OCHA now estimates that more than 3.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes. Children make up 2 million of the displaced, according to the UN.