Juba — Western Equatoria State's government says education will be one of its top priorities in 2013, and warned parents against keeping children of school-going age at home.
"All parents must make sure they send all children to school and parents who fail to send their children to school will be dealt with accordingly", state Governor, Bangasi Joseph Bakosoro said in a statement on New Year's Eve.
South Sudan is believed to have the worst literacy rate in the world, behind even Mali and Niger. A July 2012 report by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) found that less than 2 percent of the population has completed primary school education.
In 2009, adult literacy was estimated to be about 27 percent and in 2010 1.6 million children were enrolled in school in South Sudan up from 700,000 in 2006.
South Sudan allocates 16 percent of the national budget to education. However, opposition political parties and aid agencies claim the real figure is less than 10 percent.
PEACE AND HARMONY
The Governor called for harmony and promotion of social ties, adding that he hopes that the year 2013 will be a year of peace, progress, freedom from violence and hunger.
"It is our interest that, everybody keep health[ly] and focused on the development of Western Equatoria and we are looking forward to see some of our people in the Diaspora coming back to contribute for the development of the state", he said.
People have "suffered enough", he said, adding that it was time to protect citizens and make sure the security of the state is paramount during the new year.
"I am glad to mention that we experienced relevant security in the year 2012, and I hope it will continue. The most important thing is the unity of the people of the state. I strongly encourage all the people in this state to take care of themselves as we commit ourselves to providing security and conducive environment for them", he added.
Western Equatoria State has suffered in the past from the presence of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) when they were forced out of northern Uganda. Now the rebel group is thought to be in the Central African Republic or northern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Governor Bakosoro further added that "there is no great[er] love than to love our neighbours and prevent death among ourselves. Let us pray for our brothers and sisters in other states who foster culture of violence, that the good Lord will inspire them with human value and let them change their hearts to love and value each other."
It is our hope that life is dynamic, hence culture of violence must change one day, he remarked.
The year 2013, according to Bakosoro, will be a year in which security, education and agriculture sectors will be top agendas in his administration, while appealing to citizens, government officials, and all institutions in the state to value agriculture as the back bone of economic development.