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Ungele Tartizio Zirari, Chief of Namatina Payam of Nagero County addresses participants of a peace rally in Namatina Payam in 2021 (Photo: courtesy)

Children in Nagero County  of WES denied basic right to education

By Kitab Unango

Several children in Nagero County of Western Equatoria State have not been attending school since 2019 due to the absence of schools in the area.

Ungele Tartizio Zirari, Chief of Namatina Payam of Nagero County said that Namatina Primary School which is the only functioning school in the payam remains closed due to lack of teachers.

He said the entire teaching staff quit due to poor remuneration, adding that salaries could take several months to reach the already frustrated and demoralized teachers.

 “There is no single school functioning in Namatina Payam. The only government primary school was closed since 2019 because of low salary which forced all teachers who used to teach children to leave,” Zirari told Juba Echo in an interview by phone on Monday.

According to South Sudan Population Survey Report 2023, Namatina Payam located 40 miles North West of Tombura town and about 45 miles west of Nagero County has an estimated 17,922 residents.

Zirari added that lack of accessible roads and health infrastructure are among other major challenges facing the population living in the area.

He appealed to both the state and national governments to reopen the school so that children don’t miss out on school this year.

“I am appealing to our government in the Ministry of Education of Western Equatoria and in the national government to reopen the school for our children. We cannot continue to stay here without a school while children in other parts of the country are studying,” Zirari said.

Daniel Lenvee Marino, the  Nagero County Senior School Inspector, said lack of mobility has been a challenge to access and verify reports from supervisors of schools in the three payams of Duma, Namatina and Negero Payams.

“I cannot say it is true or false that that the school in Namatina Payam Center has not been functioning for three years, because we do not have the means to go and assess the situation,” Lenvee said.

He said that the County has 37 schools including nursery, primary schools and one secondary school.

The majority of schools operate under trees, which makes it difficult for pupils to study during the ongoing rainy season.

“I want appeal to the national ministry of education and instruction to increase salaries of teachers, build skills of some of them, and provide us with at least motorbikes, computers and printers for easy management and verification purposes in the county,” Lenvee said.

He disclosed that 214 out of 282 teachers in the County were volunteering and have also shunned working in the area due to the poor working conditions.

 Lenvee said that only 68 teachers had been on government payroll.

Over 2 million children in the entire country are out school due to combination of factors like early pregnancy, child marriages, flooding, conflict and lack of school feeding meals, according to the Un Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

However, the State Minister of Education and Instruction Grace Apollo Musa denied that Namatina Payam lacked a functioning school.

 Apollo said all the schools in Nagero County are functioning with the exception of a secondary school.

 “That is a total lie. In April we sent our supervisors to inspect all schools across the ten states including Nagero County, and it was only one secondary school which was not functioning,” Apollo said.

“Our biggest challenge is paying teachers’ salaries. The allowances and nature of work are being paid, but their salaries cannot meet their needs according to the current market prices. If we want teachers to deliver quality education to our children, let their salaries be increased at least to the level that can help them and their families,” she said.

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