Expanding education opportunities for girls in South Sudan

Children at Kapuri School, South Sudan. Credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

Children at Kapuri School, South Sudan.

CREDIT: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine
South Sudan faces significant challenges in the education sector, especially in terms of gender equality. A program jointly funded by the Global Partnership for Education and USAID promotes girls' education in the country to ensure that girls as well as boys have access to a quality education. The goal is to strengthen the South Sudanese education system in terms of equity and equality for all children.

The Challenge: A large percentage of girls are out of school

The government of South Sudan has set ambitious goals for the education sector, but there are formidable challenges. Despite some progress, the widespread insecurity and conflict in the country, combined with certain cultural practices, has debilitated access to educational opportunities, particularly for girls in South Sudan.

Girls in South Sudan face serious disadvantages in education. The country has the worst indicators for girls' education in the world. Not only are they less likely to enter school, girls are also more likely to drop out compared to boys. The situation is especially alarming since women and girls in South Sudan are more likely to die during childbirth than complete primary education. 1

The World Bank has estimated that only seven girls for every ten boys attend primary education, while five girls for every ten boys are enrolled in secondary education. 2 In 2013 only 500 girls were in the last grade of secondary school in the whole country.

Complicating matters is the fact that only 12% of teachers are female. 3 Female teachers are essential to serve as a positive influence for girls to enroll and stay in school – such a low number plays a part in reinforcing gender disparities.

Taking into account these staggering statistics, it is unsurprising that literacy rates are remarkably lower for girls, 40% compared to 60% for boys. 4

The Solution: Removing barriers to girls' education

South Sudan joined the Global Partnership for Education in 2012. This country received a US$36.1 million grant from the Global Partnership for the period 2013 to 2016.

This grant combined with an additional grant from USAID for a total of US$66 million, finances the Global Partnership for Education Program which is implemented by UNICEF South Sudan.

The Global Partnership for Education Program is a major supporter of girls' education and has integrated methods to promote special support to girls in all its program activities. This support includes measures to eliminate gender based violence and foster a gender sensitive environment in the classroom.

The Results: Teacher training, girl-friendly schools, and a revised national curriculum

Twenty-five girl-friendly schools will be built in South Sudan's neediest regions to directly benefit 10,000 students; 3000 of which are girls. These newly constructed schools will include separate wash facilities for girls in order to foster a gender sensitive environment.

In an effort to prevent gender based violence in the classroom and promote gender sensitivity within the new schools, teachers and head-teachers will receive training. Additionally, 9,000 head teachers will undergo a leadership training program which addresses these issues even further.

All teachers and students in South Sudan will benefit from a revised national curriculum which promotes social cohesion, gender sensitivity, and stresses methodologies for the prevention of gender based violence in the classroom.

Correspondingly, new textbooks are being written with the support of the Global Partnership to follow the new curriculum.

Other partners' support

The collaborative action of partners is essential to help South Sudan achieve its goals in the education sector. The Global Partnership along with other partners is providing the support needed to help build a brighter future for the children of South Sudan.

The Girls' Education in South Sudan (GESS) program, sponsored by the United Kingdom is the largest girl's education program in the country, providing grants to girls and community-based support for improving learning outcomes.

Education programs supported by USAID are focused on encouraging women to join the teaching force. The United States also supports community-based organizations to provide alternative education to children that have dropped out of school and girls who have never enrolled in school.

The NGO community equally provides critical support in the areas affected by conflict with support from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and UNICEF.


  1. Comparison made using data from South Sudan Statistical Yearbook 2012 and Education National Statistics Booklet 2012
  2. Education in the Republic of South Sudan – Status and Challenges for a New System – World Bank 2012
  3. Education Statistics for the Republic of South Sudan, "National Statistical Booklet 2012", Ministry of General Education and Instruction
  4. Education in the Republic of South Sudan-Status and Challenges for a New System – World Bank 2013
Sub-Saharan Africa: South Sudan


The Global Partnership for Education Secretariat is headquartered in Washington DC and has approximately 100 staff. The Secretariat provides administrative and operational support to all its partners including...

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