28 Oct '14

News Amid conflict and poverty, this school in South Sudan is an unlikely success | James Copnall

In addition to their formal studies, students at the Excel Academy are learning to look beyond ethnic and regional divisionsSchool buildings with mud walls and metal roofs, in which as many as 150 students compete for the attention of the teacher, make an unlikely setting for a South Sudanese success story. Many of the pupils crammed into the basic classrooms are in their mid-20s; others have fled conflict. Education, like everything else in the country, was left in disarray by the two civil wars that led to South Sudans independence just over three years ago, and has been further disrupted by the new internal conflict that broke out in December. But despite its many challenges, the Excel Academy, situated in the verdant town of Yei, near the border with Uganda, shows what can be achieved.Like many of the systems set up in the rush to independence, education throughout South Sudan is a mishmash of ideals and the possible. Lessons often take place under trees if buildings are not available or in a good state. Retaining teachers is difficult, because salaries are low. Sometimes the pay packet comes late, too, the commissioner of Yei River County, Bidali Cosmas, admits, and often teachers quit for more lucrative jobs in [foreign] NGOs. Some schools sit the Ugandan Certificate of Education, others the Kenyan equivalent, although the plan is for every school to move over to the South Sudanese version. In 2013, its final year in the Ugandan system, the Excel Academy produced four of the top 10 students in the area. Continue reading...

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