“Child abuse does not go away, but 90 percent of child abuse is preventable.” -Karen Adams
By Deng Kur Deng
As we all know, 2013-2015 were years of chaos in South Sudan, and so many good intentions were all affected. After the Sudanese civil war, things started to change a little for people. Now that peace is coming back to South Sudan, the country is once again may begin to grow economically and things are going to be relatively calm for people in certain areas.
However, before the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed, many countries got together in 2000 to form what are now known as Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to address outstanding issues. The signing countries believed these MDGs were the only way to bring people to their senses on social issues. MDGs were intended to address issues within the underdeveloped countries, including what was then a unified Sudan. At this gathering, there were eight concerns that were raised, but I have only selected the few that I believe need urgent attention from South Sudanese.
The following categories are major concerns among South Sudanese society: (A) Achieve universal primary education, (B) promote gender equality and empower women, and finally (C) reduce child mortality. The process to address these three concerns has only made diminutive progress because of tedious cultural components that are slowing down the progress demanded by many countries, including South Sudan. What has hindered the execution of this international policy, more than anything else, is the lack of seriousness towards and tolerance of any new strategy among the South Sudanese.
Still, we must comply with the obligations and demands of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in order to make changes on how South Sudan provides protection and education to children. As a major player, the United States has passed a law known as the “International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2010.” This law is attached to a foreign policy in which foreign countries are obligated to fulfil certain demands associated with the above law in order for them to qualify for foreign assistance. I can honestly say this is a good international law that was created for the right cause; this law can address children’s vulnerabilities and work to address them.
The effectiveness of this law will help South Sudan to save children from early marriages. According to the Congressional bill on child marriage (2009), “Most countries with high rates of child marriage have a legally established minimum age of marriage, yet child marriage persists due to strong traditional norms and the failure to enforce existing laws.” The international community has tried to close the gender gap in education worldwide, but unfortunately, it is still in place in South Sudan for various reasons.
From what I heard on the ground, the South Sudanese were seeing a growing increase in the enrollment of children in primary schools, but after the conflict engulfed the country, the dynamic in many of the schools changed and negated a lot of the education progress that had already taken place. Changing the school system and addressing the gender gap has a bad reputation for many South Sudanese, and communities are one-sided in terms of gender. Thankfully, there are those who realize that education and the protection of child welfare are the way of the future. These people see the higher enrollment of girls in primary schools and see change on the horizon.
Even with the demand from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), South Sudan has not followed through to balance education throughout the country. The lack of enthusiasm from government, military, and community leaders is incredibly frustrating for those who are working on daily basis to address gender disparity in education. Many of the agencies that are advocating for children and “Education for All” have trouble making their positions heard because of how the South Sudanese are resisting international laws meant to protect and school children of all ages, irrespective of gender.
However, without a reliable infrastructure in place, access to education won’t be successful without reflecting and acknowledging the development that must be supported in the local communities. It is very hard to convince local populations about equal access to education for all children when, as it stands, there is insufficient infrastructure to house students. However, we should not play righteousness in our practices, because education is too important to get bogged down by bureaucracy.
Many of the parents who are willing to allow their children to attend school are troubled by the idea of exposing their children to environments that are not suitable and not safe. Leaders have not collaborated enough on these issues to educate parents about the shortage in funds throughout the country and the toll that this shortage has taken on the education system. As a result, many parents have resorted to adamantly opposing educating children in schools that are not safe and that may be closed during rainy season. Investing in new, safer buildings will reassure parents and help them to understand and sympathize with the school system. But without set goals to address this particular set of problems regarding infrastructure, there is so little that can be done to accelerate the enrollment of all children in school.
As it stands, gender differences in education are now taking precedence on a global stage, and so many children might soon have opportunities they’ve never had before. Per the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), all countries were instructed to address disparities in gender before the end of 2015. Unfortunately, South Sudan has been lagging behind. Economic development is currently diminutive, and our resources remain limited and gender disparity remains prevalent. We cannot afford to let this global attention pass by; we must take strides to rectify this problem of gender disparity in our schools while we have the interest, otherwise we sacrifice the education of another generation of South Sudanese children.
This article was written by Deng Kur Deng, AKA, Raanmangar. You can reach him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
H.R. 2103, 111th Congress (2009).
Millennium Development Goals. http://www.un.org/en/events/pastevents/millennium_summit.shtml.