This morning, Harriett Baldwin MP – Minister of State for Africa at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister of State at the Department for International Development – visited GESS-supported Bishop Mazzoldi Memorial Basic School to witness the package of support to the school, as well as the continued need for support to South Sudan’s education schools and education sector.
The Minister was greeted by the Head Teacher, Sister Victoria Akot; GESS Team Leader, Akuja de Garang; GESS State Anchor Team Leader for former Central Equatoria State, Juliuos Yuga; and Cash Transfer beneficiaries, all eager to share their story.
The school receives many students. 2018 enrolment currently sits at 1164 learners – 561 of whom are girls. Sister Victoria was delighted to tell us that the enrolment of girls has been rising over the last two years and that girls now outnumber the boys in the Upper Primary classes.
The school has received a Capitation Grant for the last three years. The School Management Committee – similar to the traditional Parent-Teacher Association, but including student representatives – manages the Capitation Grant. They prioritised the repair ofthe school fence to ensure the safety of all students, as well as a water tank to provide safe drinking water throughout the school day.
Previously, the school has also spent the money on items that encourage the girls to attend school, such as sanitary items, spare underwear and soap. In South Sudan, the fear of menstruation keeps many girls from attending school at this time of the month and disposable sanitary pads are often too expensive and unavailable for most families. Supplying simple items, such as sanitary pads, encourages attendance by ensuring girls feel like they are in a safe place.
In 2016, 177 girls received a Cash Transfer. Whilst in 2017, 220 girls received the cash grant. The Minister met with a group of girls from the Upper Primary classes (P6-P8), all of whom received at least one Cash Transfer. Many of the girls agreed that, without this money, they would not have been able to enrol in school and continue attending classes. It has allowed them to pay school fees and buy scholastic materials.
The Minister proudly revealed great news to the girls– the Department for International Development (DfID) has committed to a second phase of the GESS programme, dedicating £70 million over five years. A range of integrated activities will aim to continue transforming the lives of a generation of children in South Sudan, especially girls.
The girls smiled brightly in the knowledge that the Cash Transfer money will continue to support them through their Secondary School education.