Education in South Sudan is modelled after the educational system of the "Republic of Sudan. Primary education consists of eight years, followed by four years of secondary education, and then four years of university instruction; the 8 + 4 + 4 system, in place since 1990. The primary language at all levels is "English, as compared to the Republic of Sudan, where the language of instruction is "Arabic. There is a severe shortage of English teachers and English-speaking teachers in the scientific and technical fields.
Illiteracy rates are high in the country. In 2011, it is estimated that more than eighty percent of the South Sudanese population cannot read or write. The challenges are particularly severe for female children. South Sudan has proportionately fewer girls going to school than any other country in the world. According to "UNICEF, fewer than one percent of girls complete primary education. Only one schoolchild in four is a girl and female illiteracy is the highest in the world. Education is a priority for the Southern Sudanese and they are keen to make efforts to improve the education system.
As of 1980[update], South Sudan had approximately 800 primary schools. Many of these schools were established during the Southern Regional administration (1972–81). The "Second Sudanese Civil War (1983–2005), destroyed many schools, although the "SPLA operated schools in areas under its control. Nevertheless, many teachers and students were among the refugees fleeing the ravages of war in the country at that time. Today many of the schools operate outside in the open, or under trees, due to lack of classrooms. Primary education is free in public schools to South Sudanese citizens between the ages of six and thirteen years.
Secondary school has four grades: 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th. In secondary school, science subjects are introduced, including "chemistry, "biology, "physics, "geography and others. The students ages are about 14 to 18 years, while in secondary school. There is a particularly high drop-out rate in secondary school; due to truancy among boys and pregnancy among girls.
After graduation from secondary school, one can pursue further education in either a university or a vocational (technical school). There is a shortage of both, but more so less technical schools than the country needs. Like in most "sub-Saharan countries, too much emphasis is placed on acquiring a university education and not enough on obtaining life-sustaining practical skills in a vocational or technical instititution.["citation needed]
South Sudan is in desperate need of technical/vocational school graduates in order to build and maintain its infrastructure including: building roads, houses, water treatment systems and sewage plants as well as computer networks, telephone systems and electricity generating plants to power the entire infrastructure. Maintaining those facilities will also require a lot of trained manpower. As of late 2011, there are not enough technical institutions to train the needed manpower.
As of July 2011[update], South Sudan has twelve universities of which seven are public and five are private. Officials estimate that about twenty-five thousand students have registered at the five public universities. It remains to be seen how many students do report to campus, now that all of the countries universities are actually located in South Sudan, and not in "Khartoum.
The government pays for food and provides housing for students. The former "Minister for Higher Education, "Joseph Ukel, said at the time finding enough space was one challenge the universities faced. Another issue is money. Ukel said the South Sudanese Government's proposed budget for 2011 did not include any money for the universities. Then there is the problem of teachers. Almost seventy-five percent of the lecturers are from Sudan. They are not likely to move to South Sudan to continue teaching in their former universities, now that South Sudan has seceded from Sudan.
There are three cabinet positions in the Cabinet of South Sudan that impact education. Each is led by a full cabinet minister:
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