South Sudan: Better education, health for 93,000 kids
JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN– Community leaders, education officials and the U.S. Embassy celebrated Aug. 29 the close of a successful health and education project that improved the lives of nearly 93,000 children.
At a closing ceremony for the seven-year Health, Education and Reconciliation (HEAR) project, speakers applauded its integrated approach—which empowered residents, internally displaced persons and returnees to be a part of their children’s education—as the reason for its success.
“I am proud of the accomplishments we take note of here today – despite the daunting security, infrastructure and logistical challenges all of you faced,” said Alicia Dinerstein, U.S. Agency for International Development’s South Sudan Deputy Mission Director. “I am thrilled that so many children have received the chance of learning and growth through our partnership.”
After a morning of dialogue about the project’s successes, challenges and lessons learned, the press heard presentations by key partners, including project implementer Creative Associates International and high-ranking education officials from central and state governments.
The HEAR project worked closely with education officers, school administrators, teachers and communities to improve school management and teaching methods, as well as addressing the psychosocial needs of pupils.
“The communities of Sudan are resilient—especially the children,” says Charito Kruvant, Creative’s President and CEO. “Working through a holistic approach and a high degree of community engagement, we were able to improve health and develop a sense of normalcy for the community’s children who are excited about learning.”
The USAID-funded project taught more than 1,500 school teachers from 201 schools to provide psychosocial support and incorporate student-centered lessons on conflict resolution and violence prevention in addition to health, hygiene and English—South Sudan’s new official language.
It trained 195 parent-teacher associations to make school development plans, write funding proposals and recognize their responsibility for school management. These groups have made huge contributions of local materials for classroom construction and local development projects like latrines, fences and water storage facilities.
HEAR also provided Vitamin A and deworming tablets to nearly 28,000 school children, and insecticide-treated bed nets to more than 22,000, drastically reducing the number of pupils who missed school due to illness.
By training 618 Community Health Workers to disseminate health information and promote hygiene and sanitation in schools and neighborhoods, the results will be sustainable.
Originally designed to support the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement through community-based health and education services in the three areas of Abyei, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile States, HEAR shifted its focus to serving internally displaced persons and returnees in Agok, Warrap, Unity, and Northern and Western Bahr el Ghazal States after South Sudan gained its independence in July 2011.
HEAR laid the foundation for strengthened education systems and increased community capacity and engagement with an eye toward promoting peace and reconciliation in a country strained by decades of war. It achieved these results despite encountering infrastructure, logistic and security hurdles common in conflict-affected areas.