This is a UKAID funded project whose initiative is to take up UKAID Girls’ Education Challenge and to contribute to improved life chances of marginalized girls. The Lead organisation in South Sudan is Red Een Kind (ReK) and the key partner organisation is Across. The project focuses on lower and upper primary. Target location is Rumbek East County in 25 schools. Project impact on learning targets 12,336 marginalised girls.
What is the project doing?
Addressing key stakeholders in the promotion of girls Education (girls, teachers and fathers and other key male stakeholders) combining three innovative methods: School Mothers, the What’s Up? Packages and use of Digital Audio Players (DAPs).
Implementing the ‘School Mother’ method has been successful in Rumbek East County for the last three years. The ‘School Mother’ method allows women who are respected in the community and who support girls’ education to become advocates that work with communities, parents and in schools with the girls and teacher. The school Mothers are trained counsellors and promoters of girls’ education. They are targeted due to the absence of female teachers in schools in Rumbek East County. They mobilise and engage parents to send and support girls in school; they also provide girls with counselling and guidance to retain them in school and care and support girls to manage their sexual maturation especially the menstruation cycles through the use of locally produced sanitary towels.
Addressing cultural beliefs and rites which are underlying issues preventing girls’ education through the What’s Up?! Packages. The packages are targeted at teachers, men and the girls. These are carefully structured processes of engagement through dialogue, self-reflection and envisioning about girls education with an objective of mind set change. It is a process of communication for social change and transformation where stakeholders agree on the need and the actions to address the issues identified.
Providing training using solar powered Digital Audio Players (DAPs). These are recorded with various packages of training materials including teaching methodology, life skills, English language and peace building messages. The DAPs are recorded and distributed to target beneficiaries as training and learning kits.
The innovation aspect of the project
The ‘What’s Up?’ set of life skills training for teachers has been piloted in Uganda, but is new to South Sudan. Different types of training have already been developed and are being adapted to the local context of Rumbek East County. They address, in particular, cultural issues related to gender based violence, the position of men and women, and the importance of girls’ education. New What’s Up?! Packages have also been developed specifically for this project, with a component directed at male community members.
The DAPs are innovative because they are easy, accessible, modern and environmentally friendly learning tools. They offer listeners the option to repeat a lesson anytime, anywhere, providing ‘on demand’ sessions not available through traditional methods. Through the project this methodology will be fine-tuned and expanded.
What has so far been accomplished?
50 school mothers have been identified, trained and deployed to work in the 25 target schools and the communities mobilising girls for enrolment and supporting them to stay in school. To date the number of girls that have enrolled has increased in the target schools largely due to the efforts of the school mothers. In 2013 the enrolment rate for girls was 27% and 73% for boys. This year the rate stands at 37% girls and 63% boys.
The community dialogue processes are yielding positive commitments from the parents especially the male parents to send and maintain girls in school. During the dialogues, the communities have come to appreciate and acknowledge that early marriages and the influence of getting cows as bride wealth to support the marriage of boys has played a key role in girls drop out. This was originally not agreeable. The communities have set community visions to enroll girls at an early age 5-7 and retain them in school.
Up to 37 teachers were trained in the teaching methodology and 38 more are targeted. Also 25 are targeted for the intensive English training course. These trainings are integrated with, What’s Up Teachers? Packages to address their role in girls’ education.
Education campaigns have been organised to promote girls education. These have drawn the attention of girls, boys, parents and local government authorities in playing their role in the promotion of girls’ education.
The key challenges
The operational context is largely characterised by a high incidence of localised conflicts in the form of clan fighting and revenge killings which affect the implementation of the project timelines.
The cultural influence of raising girls for marriage to bring cows is deeply entrenched and works against the enrolment and retention of girls in school.
The overall political turmoil in South Sudan as a result of the war between the SPLM in opposition and the SPLM in power also affects the project. Little attention placed on education.
The unfavourable policy environment particularly the recently concluded NGO policy has a lot of implications for the operations of NGOs in the country
The total lack of qualified teachers and more specifically absence of female teachers compromises the quality of education and discourages enrolment and retention
The economic turn down and depreciation of the local currency (South Sudan Pound) against the US dollar affects the project costs. High prices for project inputs.
Poor road infrastructure affecting access to project sites and the effects of weather especially flooding also making access difficult.