Following South Sudanís independence in July 2011 after years of war, VSO has been working with the new government to identify ways to implement long term, efficient systems to strengthen essential services in health, education and civic society.
Volunteers are urgently required to share their expertise and professional support with South Sudanese teachers and managers, improving the quality of teacher training, education management and developing examination standards and practices.
VSOís Country Director for South Sudan Alice Castillejo writes:
Volunteering in South Sudan will not be easy, the climate is hot, the towns are dusty, and the infrastructure poor, but the country urgently needs support. More than 50 years of conflict has seriously disrupted the nationís health and education services. Only 27% of over 15 year olds are literate and only 37% has ever attended school, falling well below the Millennium Development Goal for education.
At the moment schools are overcrowded and enrolments are on the increase, with an average of one teacher to 100 students. Most schools do not have toilets, which makes it difficult for girls to go to school once they have reached puberty. VSO volunteers will not be teaching children in South Sudanís schools but will be addressing existing conditions by working in district councils and ministries to improve schools and education management. If there is a focus on improving school standards and having inspections then these issues will be picked up and improvements can be made, leading to a better environment for children to be educated.
South Sudan currently does not have enough teacher training colleges, school inspection is not standardised and there are no exam boards. By the end of 2012 the curriculum will have entirely changed from Arabic to English which has been a significant challenge for teachers. VSO will be working with the government to help improve standards in education by establishing these structures, and ensuring there are the right tools in place to support training for teachers, school inspectors and examiners.
VSO is also looking for people who can work with communities and help them demand the government improve these essential services. The Republic of South Sudan is currently in the process of putting in place strategies to improve the education and health care of the nation, and citizens must be empowered to maintain the pressure on them to deliver.
This is an exciting time to be working in South Sudan. The people, who are friendly and proud, are full of hope for the future and joyous about independence. After so many years of war, the government is producing a new constitution and South Sudanese people who left as refugees are now returning from other countries. Despite the huge challenges in establishing long term management structures and training in health and education, volunteers will have an opportunity to contribute to real change in South Sudan.