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Education Minister: ‘We should not depend on foreigners to build the country’

Majok Mon
The Lakes State’s newly appointed Minister for Education, Athian Majak Malou, has vowed to improve the local education system. He tells The Niles how he plans to do that.
25.06.2012  |  Rumbek
اثيان مجاك في مكتبه في رومبيك.
اثيان مجاك في مكتبه في رومبيك.

Q: How do you plan to improve the education system in Lakes State?

A: There are challenges -- ranging from unqualified teachers, inadequate spaces for learning and the employment of new teachers has halted too.

Also read the following articles on education in Lakes State by Benjamin Mayok Mon:

Female students in South Sudan: ‘Our parents look at us and see cows’
‘We run home when it rains’: South Sudan’s classroom-less children
The Ministry will embark on two types of training programmes in order to upgrade the level of teaching. We are going to offer in-service teacher training programmes -- meant for the current teachers, to equip them with new skills and knowledge of new technologies. The second [type of] training will involve pre-service programmes. The Ministry will send some [teaching] students to college. After graduation, they will be employed to deliver quality teaching.

The Ministry also wants to improve the quality of education by having [what we’re calling] ‘education managers’ supervise, and evaluate, teaching across the state.

We also plan to construct classrooms and renovate old buildings, with the help of international organisations. The Ministry has US$3 million from the European Union earmarked for the construction of schools. We feel sure that by the next academic year we will have more permanent classrooms.

Furthermore, the Ministry wants to introduce sports and life skills training into the primary school curriculum. Pupils will be taught carpentry, masonry and mechanics. As a young nation, we should not depend on foreigners to build the country.

One of my tasks will also be the construction of my ministry offices as we have been using the premises of Rumbek Secondary School. I also want to have offices for the education officers in the eight counties built and to equip them with internet [facilities] so that school managers and teachers are exposed to the outside world, and can access learning materials online.

Q: With austerity measures in place and a difficult budgetary situation, how do you plan to pay for all that?

A: Austerity measures are not permanent. The Government of South Sudan (GoSS) will find a solution to the crisis by opening up new ways for oil to reach an international market.

We also hope that the current peace talks between Sudan and South Sudan will bear fruit. If the talks fail [and oil cannot be sold], we can use funds received from the European Union. In addition, some United Nations agencies and international organisations support educational programmes in Lakes State.

Q: Teachers have been complaining about low pay.

A: Teachers are indeed paid low salaries compared to the current cost of living. A teacher now gets SSP300 (US$100) net, monthly. That is not enough to feed a family or pay school fees for children.

As a result, teachers are looking for better paid jobs with non-governmental organisations. I plan to write to the national Ministry of Education and request a review of teacher’s salaries.

Additionally, those teachers eligible for pensions could not be retired because there are no proper pension packages in place currently. We urgently need pension packages so that the Ministry can start to employ young graduates with modern knowledge to deliver quality education.

Q: Have more children been enrolled in the Lakes State?

A: Enrolment has improved. Over 80 percent of the state’s children now go to school. The main challenge is to keep up with the rising numbers.

Q: And what do you plan to do to promote the education of females in the area?

A: This is a challenging question. Getting girls into the education system has not been very successful so far due to cultural practices that override a female’s right to go to school.