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The educational system of South Sudan is patterned on that of North Sudan, as they were one country until 2011. Primary school is an eight-year program that is followed by four years of secondary school, and then a university education if continued. However, the primary language of instruction in South Sudan is English, whereas Arabic is used in North Sudan.

While there are about eight hundred primary schools in South Sudan, many years of war has destroyed or damaged several of its schools. The region that is now South Sudan was involved in two protracted civil wars prior to its secession from North Sudan and has since been involved in a South Sudanese Civil War that is continuing, as of this writing. Additionally, many of the country's teachers were among those seeking refuge in neighboring countries.

Although many internal and international efforts are in place to rebuild the country's schools, some of its school operate outdoors, in the open, under trees, or in temporary shelters. Primary school is free to South Sudanese children, from the ages of six to thirteen.

However, it is estimated that fewer than one percent of girls complete primary school. Only one in every four children enrolled in primary school is female, and the female illiteracy rate in South Sudan is the highest in the world.

In South Sudan, the secondary school includes 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades. In these grades, subjects such as biology, chemistry, geography, and physics are introduced, along with others. Students in secondary school are from fourteen to eighteen years of age, much as in the United States. In South Sudan, there is a very high drop-out rate due to truancy among boys. Very few girls go on to secondary school and pregnancy is a common cause for dropping out of school.

After graduation from secondary school, vocational schools and universities are options, although there is a shortage of both. Like many other countries, emphasis is often placed on completing a university education rather than attaining the more accessible skills that can be acquired in a vocational or technical college.

There is a need in South Sudan for more vocational schools, as the country's infrastructure is in need of rebuilding, and the maintenance of its roads, houses, water treatment facilities, sewage systems, telecommunications systems, and electrical plants will require trained construction workers, carpenters and builders, technicians, people trained in computer and telecommunications skills, and electricians.

As of this writing, there are seven public universities and five private universities in South Sudan, and about 25,000 registered students at a given time. The South Sudanese government provides food and housing for university students. As there is in the primary and secondary grades, there is a shortage of university teachers in South Sudan. Prior to secession, most of the country's universities were in Khartoum, and about 75% of its university teachers are from North Sudan.

The indications are that the South Sudan government has an interest in education, and would like to make this a priority for the nation, but the country is in the midst of a civil war, and money is tight.

The Government of the Republic of South Sudan includes three cabinet positions that have an impact on the country's educational system. These are the Ministry of Youth Sports and Recreation, the Ministry of General Education and Instruction, and the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology.

As a British colony from 1899 to 1956, very little emphasis was placed on education by the British overseers. Christian missionaries provided some schooling, but it was haphazard and failed to help many of its students to achieve permanent literacy. While South Sudan was part of North Sudan, the Christian schools were closed by the Islamic Sudanese government and replaced by schools that used Arabic rather than local languages. They were also based in urban areas, and not accessible to most students in the South. Then there were the many years of war.

Today, the problems faced by the educational system of South Sudan can be attributed to a lack of funds and infrastructure, compounded by a largely poor and illiterate population, and a cultural tradition that de-emphasizes the importance of an education for women. Girls are generally enrolled later and removed earlier from primary school than are boys. Primary school graduation rates are low for boys, but far lower for girls. Female students who complete primary school are often encouraged to marry, rather than to continue on to secondary school, or that decision is made for them through pregnancy.

The international community has come forward, including various UN agencies, NGOs, and Western nations, both officially and through private foundations.



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