School children signing at Juba One Boys School/photo by Juba Echo

South Sudan Schools Reopen with COVID-19 Induced Challenges

By Staff Writer

South Sudan has opened schools across the country with millions of learners returning to where they had left off a year ago- some with queer manners learnt during the closure.

A 14 months closure from March 2020 left the school goers idle and engaging in different petty unlawful acts that threaten to tear apart the societal fabric education nurtures them on.

“Due to the closer of the schools many children became niggas. Others are doing manual work like washing cars, girls have gone for early marriages because they are sitting idle at home,” Mary Samuel Jada, the headteacher of Juba One Girls Primary School told Juba Echo in an interview.

Despite many things “happening” to the children, the reopening of the schools should see them all resume learning, Jada said.

Across South Sudan statistics gave alarming reports of increase in pregnancy among school going girls. Crime rate perpetrated by the youths also increased as the lockdown and travel restrictions dented on their schedules leaving them idle.

South Sudan has suffered the effects of COVID-19 including closure of public places, banning of religious and sporting places and restrictions of movement among others.

Over 10,000 people were infected with the virus and over 10 percent of them lost their lives.

The virus has waned leading the government to begin lifting several restrictions.

“I am happy because I have been at home for long and wanted to resume my studies,” Thomas Jeremiah, a 19-year-old student of Juba Day Secondary School told Juba Echo.

While noting that sitting idle at home for long was challenging, Jeremiah said many of his colleagues became criminals.

“They are now the ones robbing people at night but with the reopening of the schools they will be busy and forget what they are doing now and focus on their studies,” he said.

A parent, Viola Romano Hassan, and a mother of 5 echoed Jeremiah, warning also that learners have forgotten all the basics learned before schools closed.

“It was really bad seeing children just at home. They acquired bad manners and even some of them have forgotten how to write letters,” she said.

As the students enter classes, the government noted all COVID-19 protocols including social distancing, using of facemask and washing of hands will be adhered to.

“COVID-19 is still with us but we have decided to reopen schools and will strictly follow COVID-19 preventative measures in the schools,” Hussein Abdelbagi Akol, the Vice President for Service Cluster said in March.

Awut Deng Achuil, Minister of General Education and Instruction, for her part, urged parents and guardians to enroll their children, including pregnant and breast-feeding girls.

For Christine Andrea, an 18-year-old senior four student, “it’s simply good” to be back in school.

“It was sad to me when I heard that the schools will be closed,” Andrea told Juba Echo.

“Covid-19 brought to us many challenges like forced marriage, early pregnancy among other crimes,” she said.

“When schools are reopening again, I just want to say to all the students to come back to school and forget all other things they are doing.”

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