Creating a Safe Environment for every Child.

June 16, 2022 9:16 am

Today, GESS joins the rest of the continent to commemorate the Day of the African Child!

Approximately half of the African population is made up of children. In 2020, 41% of South Sudan’s population was 14 years or younger (World Bank). To put this into perspective, in the same year, less than 18% of the UK’s population was 14 years or younger (World Bank).

Amongst other issues, the day raises awareness of the continuing need for an improvement in the education provided to African children. This year’s theme is, ‘Eliminating Harmful Practices Affecting Children’.

Addressing harmful and discriminative practices against children is a collective responsibility. GESS works closely with stakeholders, especially the Ministry of General Education and Instruction (MoGEI) to ensure school systems are safe and inclusive for all children, including marginalised groups, like children with disabilities.

In January 2021, MoGEI, with support from GESS, released a landmark circular permitting all pregnant and nursing learners to be allowed to continue with their education. This was a commendable step and many girls who had become pregnant during the COVID-19 school closures were given the opportunity to return to school.

GESS reiterated the messages in the Ministry’s directive through ‘Our School’ radio programme. The radio programme was aired at family and community listening groups and community dialogues as part of our behaviour change communication interventions.

In the community outreach programmes, members of a particular community listen to episodes of the GESS radio programme ‘Our School’ which address barriers to girls’ education, including early and unintended pregnancies. During school closures due to COVID-19, GESS shifted from community listening groups to family levels where only members of a family could listen to the radio programme at a time to prevent the spread of the virus.

On a recent trip to a community in the outskirts of Juba, we met Sarah. Sarah fell pregnant whilst still in primary school. Sarah’s mother is member of a community listening group. One of the episodes that the group listened to shared testimonies of young mothers who have returned to school. Through the listening group, she realised that pregnant and nursing mothers are encouraged to return to school. Due to the messages aired through ‘Our School’ radio programme, Sarah received support of her mother and has now returned to school.

Children like Sarah deserve the support of their families and all stakeholders so that they feel safe enough to return to school and continue with their education.

GESS continues to work with stakeholders in South Sudan to ensure harmful practices against children are addressed, and that a safe environment is provided so that all children can thrive.  All children have the right to education!



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