WFP has begun a US$3.5 million construction project to build 25 schools in southern Sudan, where primary school attendance rates are the lowest in the world.
For me, it has been very moving to see the foundations of a WFP school being laid. They also serve as the foundations for the future of thousands of young southern Sudanese lives.
WFP Executive Director James Morris
More than 20 years of civil war, which ended in January 2005, destroyed most of southern Sudan’s infrastructure.
It is estimated that only 20 percent of children attend primary school. Of those who do, just 35 percent are girls.
Out of an estimated population of 7.5 million, only 500 girls in southern Sudan complete primary school each year.
These troubling statistics prompted WFP to add school construction to its list of recovery projects across Sudan, where WFP aims to feed up to 6.1 million people this year in an emergency operation.
The construction project is in line with the UN Millennium Development Goals and policy of the Government of Southern Sudan, both of which name universal primary education as a goal.
It complements WFP’s School Feeding Programme, which aims to increase school enrolment and attendance by giving children a free meal when they go to class.
WFP has already signed contracts to build four schools following donations in 2005 of US$ 800,000 from the United Kingdom and US$400,000 from the Netherlands.
Foundations for the future
In early June, WFP Executive Director James Morris visited the building site of one of the schools near the town of Rumbek, where four large concrete foundation slabs had been laid for classrooms and teacher housing.
“After so many years of war, much of southern Sudan has been reduced to rubble. There are very few school houses left, and of the children lucky enough to be getting an education, most take their lessons sitting on the ground under trees,” said Morris.
“For me, it has been very moving to see the foundations of a WFP school being laid. They also serve as the foundations for the future of thousands of young southern Sudanese lives.”
“I would like to especially thank the Governments of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom for their contributions that have allowed us to make a start on this project, which is vital to provide the sort of peace dividends that Sudan needs,” Morris said.
At the Rumbek school for girls, WFP works in partnership with the Norwegian Refugee Council, a non-governmental organisation.
The site for the school was chosen because so few exist in the surrounding area. Construction began in February and is expected to be completed by August.
Another three schools are also underway, and are being built in partnership with the German sustainable development organization, GTZ.
Two of the schools are being constructed in Eastern Equatoria State and one in Central Equatoria State.
“This is one of the best examples of the humanitarian community working together to improve lives – local authorities, Unicef and the Norwegian Refugee Council,” said Morris.
Each school costs approximately US$140,000 to build and can serve 405 students.
The schools will include nine classrooms, a library, a kitchen, a head teacher’s office, a staff room, teacher housing units, 16 toilets, a borehole and an access road.
The 25 new schools will add a total of 225 classrooms to the region.
They will employ 100 teachers and cater to 10,125 students. To complete all 25 schools, WFP is appealing to donors for another US$ 2.3 million.
Building the schools is an important step toward achieving WFP’s commitment to helping increase primary education enrolment rates in southern Sudan.
Under the agency’s School Feeding Programme, WFP currently provides food to 220 schools in southern Sudan, reaching 130,000 students. This figure is up from 96 schools receiving WFP food last year.
Across the entire country, WFP needs US$746 million for its emergency operation in 2006, which includes school feeding. However, it has only 51 percent or US$380.5 million of that amount, and contributions, especially cash, are urgently required.