On World Literacy Day, Western Equatorian children receive radios from UNMISS to continue learning
“Ever since our school shut down four months ago, underage pregnancies have increased. The lack of classrooms and education have left us immensely vulnerable and we need help to complete our learning,” implores primary school student, Ipai Mary.
Mary’s plea underscores the huge barriers faced by girls trying to access education in her hometown Yambio as well as many other communities across South Sudan. Young women have to overcome traditional views about early marriage as well as the severe lack of educational facilities with many schools destroyed during the civil war.
Of course, boys are affected too.
“Since our lessons stopped, most of my school mates have been spending their time loitering on street corners. Some of them have also fallen victim to practices such as drug abuse,” reveals student Simon Bakindo.
On top of these challenges, educational services in South Sudan have been severely impacted by COVID-19, like many other countries around the world. According to UNESCO, more than 11 million girls globally may not return to school this year because of the pandemic. Innovative solutions have to be found to continue their learning.
In South Sudan, radio is the only way to reach large, diverse, and remote audiences. So, Radio Miraya, operated by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, joined forces with the Ministry of Education and UNICEF to provide distance learning.
“When we heard about the difficulties being faced in reaching out to school children across the country, we immediately offered our broadcasting platform,” said the Head of UNMISS, David Shearer at the launch in May. “However, as the months passed, our staff in field offices told us that owning a radio isn’t financially viable for many families. So, we had to think of ways to enable young learners to get the most from daily lessons on Miraya.”
UNMISS’ Yambio field office quickly came up with a plan to distribute solar-powered radios to 500 local families who couldn’t afford to buy one.
Student Simon Bakindo is one of those benefiting.
“I’m grateful because, not only can I participate in radio lessons, but my entire family and friends can keep up-to-date with the latest guidance and health measures so that we don’t contract COVID-19,” he said.
UNMISS Gender Affairs Officer in Yambio, Margret Joshua, is urging families to prioritize the radios for their daughters’ education.
“There is a requirement for 35 per cent of women representatives in the government. Your daughters are future leaders. So, I urge all of you to ensure that young girls in every family get to use these radios as much as young boys,” she told community leaders at the hand-over of the radios.
UNMISS Child Protection Officer, Moses Bagari, highlighted the dual benefit of the radios to keep children learning and spreading COVID-19 prevention messages.
“We’re really pleased that these families can now get daily health information about COVID-19 mitigation measures so that they can stay safe and healthy during this critical time,” he said.