26 June 2012

Sudan: Western Equatoria Launches Education and Health Year Book

Juba — South Sudan's Equatoria state last week witnessed the official launch of its long-awaited year book, with education and health service provision emerging as key government priorities for the population.

Speaking at the occasion held in the state capital, Yambio, Governor Joseph Bakosoro said access to health and education services are fundamental rights of citizens, widely seen as key to attaining peace, stability and social security in the country.

"This day has entered our calendar and will continue to be commemorated as Western Equatoria State is witnessing a historical event, which marks the good intention of the state government and the expectation of the entire people of the State for better quality of education, and health Service," said Bakosoro, in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune.

The existence of such a year book, he emphasized, will enable government to plan and effectively allocate resources to the key sectors, specifically citing the education and health service provision, also outlined as the national government's major priorities.

This year, Western Equatoria, according to its governor has place particular focus on education, after it emerged that many children of school going are out of learning environment and reportedly became beggars on streets.

"[Their] Parents do not care or monitor whether [these] children are at school or not," he said.

The decision to focus on education, Bakosoro reiterated, remains part of government's effort to fight high illiteracy rate and crimes, which have reportedly become rampant in the state.

Meanwhile, limited learning spaces, in adequate numbers of trained teachers, few reading materials, lack of a unified education curriculum and financial constraints have been cited as bottles necks to state's efforts to enhance quality education and offer better health services.

The recent South Sudan Household Survey report, launched by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), placed Western Equatoria as the region with the highest maternal and child mortality rate in South Sudan.

While speaking at the same occasion, Joseph Ukel Abango, South Sudan's minister for general education hinted on the five year (2012-2017) embedded within the Education Bill, which he seeks to address all the challenges within the education sector.

"That strategic plan has five important goals; it was intended to improve quality education meaning we are looking at unifying curriculum that allows English to be the medium of instructions in schools and we shall embark on intensive English course for students from Khartoum," said Ukel.

The minister, however, encouraged the state government to focus on the formation of a parents' council that will work together with the school administration to enhance better education systems.

Plans are currently underway, according to the General Education Minister, to form South Sudan Examination Council, mainly comprising of retired teachers from all the 10 states of the country. The council, will among other things, be tasked with setting national examinations.

Also in the making, the minister added, is the proposal to develop a code of conduct for teachers and employees, seeking to regulate excessive drinking of alcohol among teachers and late arrivals in schools.

On his part, Philip Michael Pia, Western Equatoria's Minister for General Education lauded the state government for placing education as a key priority in the region, describing it a pillar for national development.

Despite increase in primary school enrollment to 75,000 in 2011 alone, the state ministry has place particular emphasis on girl-child education, quality education and provision of better services to citizens.

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