By Clement Maring Samuel
Reform in the education sector came a long way, and its journey is as old as the history of Sudan and South Sudan. According to Douglas Johnson in his book of “The Root Causes of Sudan’s civil wars”, (2003, and 2011), cited that: “the British administrators who ruled the Sudan in the early part of the twentieth century had an ambivalent attitude towards education. Education was to be reserved for better class of native-those merchants and notables with whom the British allied themselves, but it was also to serve limited administrative needs. In the first two decades of Anglo-Egyptian rule in the Sudan, a large number of junior administrators were drawn from the Egyptian army who were increasingly replaced to teach by educated northern Sudanese teachers in the late 1920’s onwards. The educated Sudanese were employed in government service and remained in the lower levels of the administration, technical departments, and the education service, for which nothing higher than a secondary school education was considered necessary. In the south, education needs were much more limited”. The government invested little in education sector which was exclusively left into the hands of church leaders and Muslim clerics in churches and kalwas in small urban centers and rural areas. This policy changed after the independence of the Sudan in 1956, whereby government schools were established. This has little impact in the south because the policy was controlled in Khartoum. This posed the education sector to many challenges which affects the present education system in south Sudan.
There are numerous challenges facing the education sector in South Sudan. Some of these challenges spilt over from Sudan government into the education sector in south Sudan, while others resulted from the weaknesses of the leaders of South Sudan themselves because they have not invested much in education. The ongoing civil war in the country has also created much more setback to education progress than good. These multiple challenges affect the students learning environment resulting to poor performance. However, South Sudan has not prioritized education in the national budget. Instead, huge some of the state budget is allocated for security purposes which have not yielded any reform of the security sector in the country, instead, have destroyed the security sector in totality. In effect, huge sum of government budget has been spent on building unreformed security sector which was designed using parochial lens that later damage the country, other than invested in reforming the education sector for sustainable growth and development of the country.
The purpose of this article is to enable us look into the persistent challenges that are affecting students in senior secondary schools in the republic of South Sudan and how we can addressed them. In most cases, the senior secondary school challenges are overlooked and students who get enrolled into higher studies enter into universities with poor images which affect their performance in higher studies. The secondary school is like a bridge that needs strongly pillared to enable students enters into university with strong foundations that could enable them perform well in the universities.
Among the many challenges facing senior secondary schools in South Sudan includes:-
The issue of unqualified teachers
Many of the teachers in South Sudan have no teaching knowledge to impact on students. Those who are teaching in private schools put their interest much in profit making; as a result, private schools sometimes employ teachers who lack the proficiency to impart knowledge to students. They are not qualified to teach but just filling the gap of teaching to make their schools running to earn money but not the impartation of knowledge as a priority. Few senior secondary schools have qualified teachers. Even in public schools, majority of the teachers are not qualified. This has contributed to students performing poorly in exams. The current reform in the ministry of General education and instruction in the country is a welcome development. The Minister has directed all teachers with primary school certificates to be terminated in teaching primary schools students, and those teaching in senior secondary schools should hold university degrees in education. Although the reform is a welcome idea, yet, the ministry should offer alternative options to those teachers who have had experience in teaching but are screened out because of low qualifications to upgrade their credentials in faculties of education in universities within the country because these teachers have moral obligation to anchor the teaching profession which has been abandoned even by graduates of education because of little salary.
High School demands
The many school demands are like the high dowry that affects marriages in the society. Many school administrations or teachers demand many things from the students making poor students unable to meet these demands and drop out of schools especially those at their final stage of their learning. The most affected are female students who sometimes end up selling their bodies to economically giant boyfriends accruing money to cater for their school needs. This moral ineptitude affects the psychology of the female students making them inferior in school and drastically affects their performance.
Conditions facing female Students
Menstrual period affects female students in their studies. In most cases poor students who are unable to afford menstrual kits misses classes giving challenging them to do double or triple work to catch the students who have move ahead with class work.
Female students are normally undermined by the male students and teachers, a tendency which sometimes affects the psychology of the student, and make them inferior. This inferiority complex needs to be removed through thorough counseling and guidance
Families sometimes neglect girls and favors the boys because the girls are considered to be a taken away family members who deserves not to be accorded due consideration as they are temporary waiting members in the family.
Early marriage always drops girls away from school.
Personal demands are very high that compelled girls to go for boy friends who sometimes impregnate the girl living her in vulnerable situation. Girls are kept out of school to do housework or help their families search for food.
Poverty led female students to leave school and tempted to get married without completing their studies, others engage themselves in petty business of selling tea and brewing local beer for survival
The conflict in South Sudan has dropped many female students in schools and most of them feel frustrated of being left behind as they see their fellow students continuing with studies.
Conditions facing male students
The situation surrounding learning of male students is majorly overlooked in the society of South Sudan. The Government focuses on female students much more than on male students. The girl’s education south Sudan (GESS), an initiative which is funded by the UK government is helping the girls to meet their needs in some extend. “The GESS education program has helped over 180,000 girls in schools”. But the boys are entirely left into the mercy of their parents and themselves. This situation makes them to think and behave indifferently in pursuit of educational needs.
When it comes to the level of poor infrastructure, there is no doubt that secondary school students make use of poor infrastructural structures during studies. This includes the use of poorly built schools which in turn negatively affects their level of understanding. Students who are learning in a class where the roof is licking, rain will disrupt the lessons and both the students and teachers will not be comfortable. Although, there is a campaign that learning is not the structures but the teaching, but also, effective and efficient learning need good shelter to protect both teachers and students from rain or heat and detractions. It is necessary that good schools are built and dilapidated schools are renovated for students and teachers health and performance as well.
Poor payment of teachers
Improvement of teachers’ salary is important, and should be prioritize in the budget of Ministry of education to avoid temptation of abandoning teaching profession because of poor remuneration. Teachers, who are inadequately paid causes general strikes supported by teachers’ trade unions. Frequent strikes negatively affect student’s performance, especially, those students who are in their final year of studies. Teachers’ strikes lure weak students who are trouble makers in schools and some uphill parents to stir violence in schools so that they all fail the goal of studies. In such instances, students end up missing classes which could later affect their performance in final examinations. To conclude this section, improvement of teachers’ salaries will make the qualified teachers in South Sudan to develop interest in teaching profession than leaving the teaching profession to look for fat salaries in NGOs and other highly paid sectors.
Poor government monitoring mechanism
One of the important departments in the Ministry of education is the inspection department. This department is poorly equipped, making the staffs vulnerable to render the adequate inspections in secondary schools. In the 1980s during time of Abel Alier in the then Regional government, the whole Minister of education and guidance Hon. Mading de Garang Atong, took the lead in inspecting schools. One of the beneficiaries of his inspectorate was St. Joseph’s Primary and intermediate school in Juba of which the author witnessed how the minister sat behind the class to see how teachers teaches and how students cope with learning for one week. That inspection by the highest official in the Ministry of education always makes teachers very active and punctual. In contemporary learning, the Ministry has no monitoring team to inspect the schools. This department helps the ministry to visit various schools and closely examine the quality of teachers, and teaching offered in senior secondary school, and also to examine the infrastructure and other important areas that need inspection. If this is effectively implemented, senior secondary schools will reduce the number of unqualified teachers and ensure that students get quality education necessary to help them perform well in universities and eventually render quality services to the country when they graduated from universities.
Inefficient Computer learning
Currently, Ministry of education has changed the name from being call as “the Ministry of education and guidance” to “Ministry of education science and technology”. It is emphasizing focus much on the science and technology part, and computer learning is one of the technological epicenters of the ministry’s objectives. However, teaching computer itself is a daunting challenge which a senior secondary school student is facing due to lack of qualified computer instructors. Besides, in almost all the senior secondary schools whether public or private, there are no computers in the laboratories. This lack of computer lab always makes students to acquire theoretical basics but not piratical skills, and hardens the life of a student in pursued of knowledge where even libraries are scarce in most senior secondary schools. To address this gap, it is important that the ministry of general education science and technology should design a new policy that provide senior secondary schools with computer lab, and employ qualified computer instructors who are well paid to help students acquire the necessary computer skills needed for personal development and development of the nation.