2015 Volume 2015 Issue 50 Pages 112-133
South Sudan obtained independence in 2011 after decades of conflict. This conflict partly resulted from a war against the Arab-led Sudanese government by non-Arab anti-government Africans, i.e. the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). Due to the conflict, the vast majority of people missed educational opportunities.
In post-conflict countries, it often happens that the new government introduces the new medium of instruction along with replacing the official language. In South Sudan, it was changed from Arabic to English. This move had a great impact on people’s daily lives and school education, particularly teachers. The international community is keen in providing South Sudan with significant assistance, but this has also created an aid-dependency syndrome, particularly in the situation where administrative capacity is considerably low. A high-ranking official in the Ministry of Education confessed during a donor meeting that, “We understand how to fight a war, but we do not know how to provide education. Therefore there are no other ways except to ask for your help.” External consultants have collected essential educational data, and aid agencies and their affiliated researchers have conducted an education sector study. However, independent researchers working in education are very rare because of tight security in the country. Aid-related researchers conduct studies in order to grasp overall pictures of education systems, yet while focusing on quantitative macro data pay little attention to individual schools. Although educational statistics appear to be rich in information, the realities in schools are not as easily measurable. Moreover, there are always limitations in accuracy and validity in such quantitative figures.
The purpose of this study is to explore the realities of primary education in South Sudan from the perspectives of teachers, students and parents by employing a qualitative approach. We particularly focus on the impact of changing the medium of instruction on the operation and management of individual schools, and people’s behavior towards education. Fieldwork was carried out twice in 2013 for a total period of 4 weeks, which principally covered the four primary schools located in Juba County. Interviews were made among some fifty stakeholders. We also observed the operation and management of schools and the deployment of teachers with particular attention to their working conditions and teaching styles in class.
This study revealed the following five observations, which have occurred due to the change in the medium of instruction: (1) The emergence of ‘Arabic-pattern’, ‘English-pattern’ and volunteer teachers: Arabic or English-pattern teachers are categorized based on the language taught in secondary schools or/and teacher training institutes. Volunteer teachers, who are employed and paid by individual schools, are all English-pattern. They are expected to teach in the upper-grade classes where Arabic-type teachers cannot teach since the medium of instruction is English. (2) A disproportionate number of deployed teachers and a prevalence of teacher absenteeism: Efficient deployment of teachers remains challenging. Arabic-pattern teachers are limited in their ability to communicate in English. There is often an excess of teachers in urban schools in order for the Arabic-pattern teachers to remain. On the other hand, many rural schools lack teachers and absenteeism is common partly because of the poor public transportation system. (3) The collection of school management funds and the burden of remuneration for volunteer teachers: The government encourages cost sharing in education. Each school needs to employ English-pattern volunteer teachers to substitute for Arabic-pattern teachers. The personnel expenses for volunteer teachers have to be covered by each school and (View PDF for the rest of the abstract.)