By: Thudan Gai Majiok
Opinion – If we need South Sudan to be a non-violent and thriving country, we must spend our resources on educating our girls. The people of South Sudan, particularly the people of Greater Upper Nile and Greater Bar El Gazal should be informed that educating girls does not only change their social and economic lives but also democratizes and conciliates their communities and makes their communities flourishing business and investment grounds. They should be enlightened to abstain from marrying off girls at early ages. They should not attach bizarre notions to girl-child education.
Generally, South Sudanese people must be informed that there are a lot of damaging repercussions associated with early girl-child marriages and other harmful practices committed against girls. Communities must be informed that educating girls comes with a lot of socio-economic and rational benefits. I strongly believe in this adage that says “educate a woman and you educate a family, educate a family and you educate a nation”. If this adage is empirically applied and consistently practised by our people, South Sudan will be a great nation like Britain and other glowing countries in the world. As an informed son of this country ( RSS), I always feel affronted when I see 97% of our girls being denied education and being coerced to early marriages when they are not physically, economically and psychologically ready to shoulder conjugal responsibilities.
In 2011, I had a social-based conversation with a friend of mine. He told me that he had three daughters, seven, five and three years old. He told me that he would not send them (girls) to school because he did not want them to get messed up in schools. He said he was disappointed because he had two (2) female relatives who were taken to school in Khartoum in 1980s and those ladies did not come back to their village after finishing their schooling. He said they were still in Khartoum, working there. I asked him whether those two ladies were sending them money, clothes and other stuffs in the village. He said “yes” they were sending money, clothes and beds which were not got by all the relatives. “I expected them to come back to the village to be married here so that all of us their relatives can get our shares (obviously cows)” He stressed his point with anger (He could visibly be seen angry).
But this friend of mine did not know that educated or learnt people should not necessarily come back to the villages to stay there since there are no formal jobs in the villages (I also stressed this point to him). I tried to convince him that educated or learnt women are not necessarily expected to come back to the villages to marry but should at times come back to visit relatives. They get their husbands in towns. It is men who should choose to come or not to come back to marry in the villages and go back to towns to work there but women get their husbands in towns because the men in the villages are illiterate and learnt women cannot go for them. But my friend could not listen to these enriched explanations. This is a notion that many of our people have on girls. Very sad!
Unfortunately, the few girls who have managed to join schools are either impregnated or forced out of schools before reaching standard eight (commonly known as P8). This is a disgraceful practice and this practice cannot be left to be fought alone by the government. It is a fight that can vigorously be fought with all kinds of muscles by every citizen of this country. Relevant legislations about girl-child education must be created and enforced without compromises. Our people listen much better when a law/policy is forcefully applied and they are habitually tired of something takes long to be realized. People must know that education is a long-term and expensive project. Its results are rewarding and sweet but take long to be reaped. But once reaped, they are fully enjoyed and cherished; therefore, education is a project that must be embraced with love. The government of South Sudan should also build girls-based schools, at least two in every Payam and should equip these schools with quality teaching and learning materials and staff them with quality and qualified teachers.
The author of this article is a concerned citizen of South Sudan and a girl-child education advocate. He can be reached at Gatwangaak@yahoo.com