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Healing a nation through education

Cambridge Education is leading an innovative education programme in South Sudan designed to transform the lives of 200,000 girls and help lift their families and communities out of poverty. By tackling ingrained stigmas surrounding the education of girls we are contributing to the long-term development of the world’s youngest country.

Innovation has driven some of the most dramatic development successes over the past 15 years. Innovative approaches are needed to reach vulnerable girls and women.

Justine Greening

Former UK Secretary of State for International Development, talking about GESS

Barriers to success

South Sudan, a young nation where 51% of the 10M population live beneath the poverty line, faces huge practical challenges in rebuilding itself following decades of civil war and now new internal conflict. By giving an education to girls, communities gain a tool to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. Yet, the barriers to success are high in a country where only one girl in ten completes primary education, and girls comprise just a third of the secondary school population.

The primary aim of Girls’ Education South Sudan (GESS) is to transform the lives of a generation by improving teaching and learning in schools, and increasing access, retention and completion among primary and secondary schoolgirls. A key challenge has been changing perceptions about female education in patriarchal communities.

Girl-friendly learning

GESS is rooted in a communication campaign, which aims to bring changes in social and individual behaviour towards girls’ education, and a whole-school development approach. Working with schools and community-based organisations, our specialist team is helping to build partnerships with governments to create safe, girl-friendly learning environments in schools.

A key component of GESS is to encourage enrolment and retention of girls by providing cash transfers to girls in education. In addition, capitation grants to all not-for-profit schools help supplement running costs and improve learning environments to make them more attractive and student-oriented. So far, 120,000 girls have received direct payments, freeing them to stay in school by supporting their families, while over 3000 schools have received grants.

Rapid progress

The programme aims to benefit at least 150,000 girls in primary school and 50,000 girls in secondary school, and share the lessons nationwide. To date more than 240,000 girls and 300,000 boys have benefited from the programme’s broader package of support, a million other girls will be reached through communications to families, communities and leaders, while learning outcomes will improve and drop-out and repetition rates will decrease across South Sudan.

Progress has been rapid. On 7 July 2015, National Girl Education Day in South Sudan, the combined enrolment at primary and secondary schools broke the 1M barrier for the first time, of which 417,116 were girls.

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