2017 was a groundbreaking year for GESS. SSSAMS (South Sudan School Attendance Monitoring System – www.sssams.org) – our online system that produces real-time reports on enrolment in South Sudanese schools – recorded 1,509,251 pupils enrolled in 3,652 schools – the highest number ever recorded. Girls made up 44.53% of total enrolment. Particular progress has been made with girls in classes P5-P8 girls, the level at which many girls drop out due to early marriage, responsibility in the home, and other reasons.
One of the pull factors for girls in upper primary is the GESS Cash Transfer. In Academic Year 2017, we reached over 212,000 individual girls with Cash Transfers, making a total of 284,160 individual girls reached throughout the length of the Programme – smashing through our target of reaching 200,000 individual girls with Cash Transfers over the length of the GESS programme.
The cash assistance aims to reduce the economic barriers to girls enrolling in school and staying in school, by offsetting some of the direct and indirect financial barriers to education, and it has proved to be an important tool in the quest to deliver on the UK Government’s commitment to ‘leave no one behind’, and to support gender equality in the education system.
As well as cash transfers, GESS delivered cash grants to 2,217 schools (1,985 Primary schools and 232 Secondary schools). Capitation Grants are funds made available to all not-for-profit schools to help supplement running costs and improve the learning environment – a vital resource given the poor infrastructure and teaching and learning environments in South Sudanese schools.
To boost the effectiveness of these cash grants, GESS trained school governing bodies – termed School Management Committees (SMCs) in Primary schools and Boards of Governors (BoGs) in Secondary schools – to improve the effectiveness of planning, budgeting, teaching and learning. We reached a total of 3,463 SMCs/BoGs (a variation of the classic PTA to include the Head Girl and Head Boy) in 2017.
GESS’ pilot Teacher Professional Development programme concluded at the end of 2017. The pilot reached 2,500 Primary school teachers from 183 schools across the ten former States, empowering teachers and Head Teachers to deliver quality lessons and effective learning processes – a highly applicable intervention given the low levels of education of both Primary and Secondary school teachers in South Sudan. We hope that the programme can be scaled up in the future, in order to reach a larger number of teachers across the country.
‘Our School’ radio programme continued to broadcast on 32 partner radio stations across the country, playing in 9 local languages. Each programme targets specific knowledge, attitudes and behaviours identified as being supportive of girls’ education. The social and behavioural change component of GESS supports the long-term vision of changing deeply-entrenched cultural attitudes towards gender norms and girls’ education.
We are coming to the end of GESS’ first phase, but we will continue to support schools during Academic Year 2018 – collecting data on enrolment, providing cash grants, supporting schools with school-based governance trainings and broadcasting ‘Our School’, across the country.