Girl’s education in South Sudan

Written by Agnes Amaral

The reality of girl’s education in South Sudan must be understood not simply in the context on lack of gender inequality but within a system of class domination based on wartime predation. South Sudan only recently gained independence in July of 2011. There are a lot of implications of wartime and post-war resource capture that overcome education infrastructure now. The civil war increased social inequality and created new social relations in which elites gained substantial power, enabling them to maintain the status quo. 

This formation illustrates how corruption became part of the political system and brought forward problems that affect today’s education system in South Sudan. Principally considering one of the main problems is that the education system is stressed by a lack of school infrastructure and teaching materials, as well as the limited number of qualified teachers. Another problem related to income inequality is the expenses the educational system does not cover. Although education is technically free, families are expected to pay additional fees if they want their children to receive an education—for example, textbooks and uniforms. 

Monica in a classroom in Oxfam’s girls’ education project, Bahr el Ghazal, South Sudan. Photo by Laura Pannack, Oxfam East Africa.


Education is a key determinant for overcoming inequality on a global scale. Post civil war, South Sudan became a subsistence agriculture economy to survive. Children were included in this process and expected to work in order to maintain the household. That is a problem since they don’t have enough time to attend school and school activities. 

Half of the country’s population is in extreme poverty. Work functions as a form of immediate sustenance, taking away education as a fair opportunity. Additionally, there is a low employment in the country. For this reason, most jobs are tied to agriculture and services, children are part of this labor force.

A deficit of government investments in education also accentuates the problem in the country. Only 30% of the population can read and write, according to World Population Review in 20191.

Not only is access to education a problem but consistent enrollment of students in school. Most children cannot complete the primary school cycle. This is due to  financial difficulties and poor infrastructure. Some students must walk more than 3km a day to get to school. This makes leaving school a viable alternative.


These forms of oppression affect women even more. Many girls and women abandon school to perform a common cultural reality in this country, for example, early marriage. Gender inequality directly affects teachers too. According to UNICEF, in 2006, only seven percent of teachers were women.

South Sudan has a conservative ideology promoting the negative perception of women and girls. Women don’t have access to property ownership, and this makes marriage an option to survive. It is a cultural aspect that reflects in all spheres of South Sudanese society. Marriage confines girls into a dependency system because it is the primary source of income. They are expected to labor in domestic chores and have almost no time to dedicate to educational growth. 

Many girls spend their childhood and adolescence carrying water, cooking, cleaning and caring for babies, leaving no opportunity to study and further their education. Education is essential aspect to successfully break down these barriers. Especially an egalitarian education that reduces gender inequality.

Recently, Pope Francis spoke out about the fact that many girls do not make it to secondary education in South Sudan. “Please, protect, respect, appreciate and honor every woman, every girl, young woman, mother, and grandmother. Otherwise, there will be no future” (Reuters) The event brought together religious people and a humanitarian, Sara Beysolow Nyanti, to discuss the protection of women and girls in the country.

Education is a very important agenda. Since it is recognised as an opportunity for  girls and women to access other realities. Not only financial realities but cultural realities that evoke the gender role socially.

The leadership of women who fight for their rights is evidenced, since the challenges they all face, such as forced marriage, lack of school infrastructure, low income, etc., are varied. Although South Sudan offers free education, it is possible to conclude that there are several obstacles to improving the quality of life of these girls. Several studies show how less than half the population attended school, a number that decreases when the cut-off is by gender. Many girls work in agricultural activities to support the household. The confrontation of this problem must be thought through in several arenas. More than just guaranteeing free education, recognising and fighting child labor as a determinant of poverty is necessary. Investments in education must be recognised in the mitigation of gender inequality in order for the future generations to enjoy the benefits that education brings to society.

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