According to the 2014 National Inclusive Education Policy position paper, ‘The government‘s overall goal for education in South Sudan adopts the principles of inclusive education through this statement: “A society in which ALL persons regardless of their disabilities and special needs achieve education to realize their full potential”.’ The inclusive education policy, therefore, should facilitate the ‘creation of positive and successful environment for all learners through the process of inclusive education and provides those for those with special needs and disabilities to have equal access to quality and relevant education and training.’
Inclusive education means that ‘schools should accommodate all children regardless of their physical, intellectual, social, emotional, linguistic or other conditions. This should include disabled and gifted children, street and working children, children from remote or nomadic populations, children from linguistic, ethnic or cultural minorities and children from other disadvantaged or marginalised areas or groups.’ Moreover, inclusion is seen as a ‘process of addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of all children and youth, through increasing participation in learning, cultures and communities, and reducing and eliminating exclusion within and from education. It involves changes and modifications in content, approaches, structures and strategies, with a common vision that covers all children of the appropriate age range and a conviction that it is the responsibility of the regular system to educate all children.’
Special education needs
According to the 2012 General Education Act, learners have special education needs when those needs ‘require special educational provision so that they can learn to the best of their abilities’. These learners did/do not have access to education due to lack of facilities, conflict, poverty, language, gender or culture.
Most children with disabilities do not attend school in South Sudan. Their school attendance varies from 21.9% to 24.3% according to a 2013 survey by the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare. The long-term objective is ‘to mainstream children with special needs to the greatest extent possible’. To this end, learners are enrolled in the regular education system ‘when they are deemed ready by trained educational assessors’. In addition, the Ministry of Education plans to designate one functional government school in each payam (second-lowest administrative division) as a ‘model school’ for inclusive education. The 2017–22 General Education Strategic Plan states that staff in these schools will receive special training in inclusive education and that priority will be given to the provision of inclusive learning materials and assistive devices. In addition, these schools will serve as resource centres that can also be used for the professional development of teachers.
Article 29 of the 2011 Constitution, as amended in 2013, enshrines the right to education for all citizens and states that all levels of government must provide access to education without discrimination based on religion, race, ethnicity, health status including HIV/AIDS, gender or disability. Article 14 of the 2008 Child Act provides for the right to education and states that children ‘shall not be discriminated on the basis of his or her parent’s or guardian’s gender, race, age, religion, language, opinion, disability, HIV positive or health status, birth status, custom, ethnic origin, rural or urban background, socio-economic or political status, refugee status, criminal record or any other status.’ South Sudan ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 2015 but has not ratified either the Convention Against Discrimination in Education or the Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.
The 2014 National Inclusive Education Policy position paper aims to facilitate the ‘creation of positive and successful environment for all learners through the process of inclusive education and provides those for those with special needs and disabilities to have equal access to quality and relevant education and training.’ It intends to provide the necessary supports for children with disabilities in regular classroom settings. In parallel, the alternative education policy targets the most disadvantaged learners (including girls and women, street-working children, adults in prison, organized armed forces and their children, and agropastoralists) by providing them with an education that is adapted to their learning and lifestyle needs and flexible in terms of timings, location and mode of delivery. Finally, the 2017–22 General Education Strategic Plan advocates with communities to improve enrolment and retention for different vulnerable groups, including girls and children with disabilities.
South Sudan has not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. However, Article 29 of the Constitution obliges the government to provide access to education for all. The 2012 Education Act states that the government must promote the development of sign language and Braille systems for the benefit of people with special needs. In fact, Universal Sign Language has the status of an official language for the purposes of learning at a public school. That said, South Sudan does not yet have a standandized sign language. In this respect, there is a current initiative by the Ministry of Gender, Social and Child Welfare to develop a unified sign language dictionary for the country (in collaboration with the association for the deaf in Juba). In the same vein, Article 14 of 2008 Child Act provides for the right to education ‘regardless of the type or severity of the disability [learners] may have’.
Furthermore, the National Policy on Disability aims at promoting equal education opportunities for enhanced empowerment, participation and protection of rights of persons with disabilities and aims at guiding and informing the planning process, resource allocation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of activities at all levels. Finally, the 2014 National Inclusive Education Policy position paper recognizes the primacy of non-discrimination in enrolment and retention of learners requiring additional supports, including learners with disabilities, in any institution of learning.
South Sudan ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 2015. In parallel, Article 16 of the Constitution states that women ‘shall be accorded full and equal dignity of the person with men’. The 2012 Education Act emphasizes that the goal of general education is to achieve equity and promote gender equality and the advancement of the status of women and states that the ‘Ministry of General Education in consultation with the National Ministry of Labour, Public Service and Human Resource Development shall develop a comprehensive affirmative action policy for female teachers at all levels to achieve gender equality in the teaching workforce.’ Furthermore, Article 26 of the Child Act, on the ‘Rights of the Female Child’, states that ‘Every female child has a right to be protected from sexual abuse and exploitation and gender-based violence … [and] the right to develop their full potential and skills through equal access to education and training.’ It mentions that no female child shall be expelled from school ‘due to pregnancy or motherhood or hindered from continuing her education after one year of lactation.’
The 2016 National Women’s Strategy commits to enhancing women’s participation in national decision making across different sectors of society through education. The 2014 National Inclusive Education Policy position paper cites the aim of achieving parity among men, women, boys and girls as learners. It mentions the existence of the Directorate of Gender Equity and Social Change under the Ministry of Education. Similarly, the 2017–22 General Education Strategic Plan plans to develop and implement a national gender policy in education in order to place more women in management and leadership positions in the education system. The plan mentions key strategies in this regard, such as providing comfort kits, segregated latrines, tuition supplements and personal needs allowances for girls so that they can continue their studies at schools and teacher training institutes. The 2015–17 Girls’ Education Strategy for South Sudan identified key strategies to strengthen girls’ inclusion, including advocacy for affordable education, social sensitization and mobilization, gender-sensitive curricula, professional development for teachers and policy development.
In addition, South Sudan implemented the Community Girls’ School programme to provide education to out-of-school girls. The Ministry of Education also created Promotion and Advocacy for Girls’ Education (PAGE), an advocacy group that advocates for girls’ education across the country.
The Girls’ Education in South Sudan project, financed by the UK Department for International Development, was expected to continue at least through 2018. Through that programme, incentives were provided to girls in the upper primary and secondary grades. The ministry intends to continue this system of cash transfers for girls pending stabilization of the country’s macroeconomic context.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
Article 6 (2) the Constitution establishes English as the language of instruction at all levels of education. Similarly, Article 38 states that all levels of government ‘shall recognize cultural diversity and encourage such diverse cultures to harmoniously flourish and find expression through education’. In addition, the 2012 Education Act stipulates that ‘All indigenous languages of South Sudan are national languages’ while ‘Arabic and other international languages shall be optional subjects’. Therefore, it indicates that the Ministry of Education must develop the national standards for indigenous languages, train teachers of national languages and develop learning materials for national languages. Furthermore, the act states that the medium of instruction must be the indigenous language of the area in early childhood development and primary 1 through 3 and that the indigenous language shall continue to be taught as a subject in primary 4 through 8.
There are more than 70 languages spoken in South Sudan. The 2017–22 General Education Strategic Plan also states that a strategy to implement a national languages and education policy is urgently needed in order to improve the quality and relevance of education. In this regard, the Ministry of Education has already drafted a first version of this policy, which needs to be finalized and enacted upon.
People living in rural or remote areas
The 2012–17 General Strategic Education Plan has helped to provide these learners with secondary education, either through establishment of boarding schools or through the provision of low-cost dormitories for existing secondary schools. It also aimed to train parent–teacher associations, boards of governance and school management committees to mobilize resources for school, including provision of teacher housing/accommodation in rural areas. Finally, a national policy on distance learning was to be developed by 2013. It was intended to guide the implementation of distance learning programmes through media and ICT. The 2017–22 General Education Strategic Plan identifies some key strategies to increase the inclusion of students living in rural or remote areas, such as expanding the number of community schools to make access easy, continuing massive sensitization efforts to help improve the situation, increasing, expanding and sustaining cash transfers for girls and increasing and sustaining capitation grants.
Pastoralist and nomadic communities
To address education gaps of specific groups, South Sudan has implemented a non-formal education strategy through alternative education systems including a) an accelerated learning programme, b) an adult education programme, c) Community Girls’ School, d) an intensive English learning programme and e) a pastoralist education programme. The latter aimed to better respond to pastoralists’ needs. The programme is designed to be mobile, with trained teachers who follow the pastoralists’ communities wherever they migrate with their livestock and put up classrooms to teach children from these communities. A new curriculum and programme strategy framework was launched in 2017 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and UNESCO in partnership with three line ministries (Ministry of General Education and Instruction, Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries and Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security).
Education in emergencies
The 2008 Child Act states that ‘where armed conflict occurs, the Government shall ensure that children’s rights are protected in accordance with the provisions of this Act and international humanitarian law’. In this regard, the 2012 South Sudan Minimum Standards for Education in Emergencies aim to enhance the quality of education preparedness, response and recovery; to increase access to safe and relevant learning opportunities for all learners; and to ensure accountability and strong coordination in the provision of education emergencies through to recovery. Along these lines, the South Sudan Teachers’ Code of Conduct for Emergency Situations is intended for use in emergency situations and is designed to identify the main responsibilities of teachers in this context. Finally, the 2017–22 General Education Strategic Plan aims to maintain or restore primary education for children affected by conflict (internally displaced persons and refugees) by increasing their inclusion rate to 88%. The ministry also aimed to rehabilitate 150 schools by 2021 and to conduct assessment of the status of education facilities in areas affected by conflict.
The technical committee in charge of the 2014 National Inclusive Education Policy paper identified the main actors involved in the implementation of inclusive education. At the national level, the Ministry of Education is the ‘ultimate body responsible for general education system’. Inclusive education is implemented through the Directorate of Gender Equity and Social Change through a proposed Department of Inclusive Education. The Teacher Education Department works with the Curriculum Department to train teachers on the revised curriculum to come. The Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare and the Ministry of Health is responsible for issues concerning disability. At the state level, units of inclusive education were to be established in all 10 states, and each county was to have an inclusive education officer working under the Department of Education. Locally, at the school level, some teachers were to be appointed resource teachers, in charge of identifying all pupils with learning and behavioural difficulties in the classroom and planning strategies for intervention. An inclusive education facilitator in each community was envisioned to work with parents to get out-of-school children into school and minimize dropouts. Furthermore, inclusion resource centres would support the development of inclusive practices and resources, educational functional assessment, referral, placement and support to the learning institutions. In this regard, the 2014 National Inclusive Education Policy position paper stresses the need to enhance collaboration, partnerships and participation of these relevant ministries and structures, as well of parents and disabled people’s organizations working in the field of disability and health, such as NORAD, Light for the World and the Strømme Foundation.
Based on the 2014 National Inclusive Education Policy position paper, in order to support the coordination among all these stakeholders, the Department of Development Partners Coordination was to establish inclusive education advisory committees.
Infrastructure and services
The 2014 National Inclusive Education Policy position paper aimed to a promote barrier-free environment for learners requiring additional supports in all learning institutions and to train in and promote the use of specialized facilities, services, assistive devices and technology, equipment and teaching/learning materials. The 2017–22 General Education Strategic Plan states, ‘New schools will be designed so that children with physical disabilities are able to access classrooms as well as water and sanitation facilities.’ It identifies some targets linked to this objective, such as increasing from 32% to 100% the percentage of schools with water points and decreasing from 15% to 0% the percentage of schools without latrines. It mentions that the construction of new learning spaces will depend on community involvement and the support of partners. A target in the plan concerns the number of girls in grades 5 to 8 receiving hygiene kits, which should increase to 100%.
Based on the 2014 National Inclusive Education Policy position paper, the departments of Curriculum Development, Quality Assurance and Special Needs Education (within the proposed Department of Inclusive Education) shall take the lead in developing curriculum adaptation guidelines for all teachers. The 2014 National Inclusive Education Policy position paper identifies the need to include the principles of inclusive education through the curriculum and to make the curriculum learner-centred and responsive. In this vein, the 2012–17 General Strategic Education Plan advocates for an inclusive unified curriculum, new textbooks and teaching guides ‘that address national development requirements through the inclusion of cross-cutting issues such as life skills, HIV and AIDS, gender, peace education, environmental education, and learners’ special needs’.
A new curriculum has already been developed and addresses critical issues including safety and social cohesion. As it uses English as the language of instruction from grade 4 onwards, ‘implementation is more difficult in the northern states, which are primarily Arabic speaking and where there is a shortage of teachers who are fluent in English’, according to the 2017–22 General Education Strategic Plan. The ministry in collaboration with FAO and UNESCO has also developed a ‘livelihoods curriculum for pastoralist communities targeting children, youth and adults where children will learn in their mother tongue through level and then transition to formal schools beginning with P5’. Out-of-school youth in these communities will have an option to attend an accelerated learning programme, and ‘a two-year livelihood basic literacy and numeracy programme will be offered for adults in pastoralist communities.’
Learning materials and ICT
Reported textbook ratios are around one textbook per four learners for mathematics and English. In this context, the 2012 Textbook Policy identifies the main issues linked to learning materials, including coverage, publishing, authorship, supply, planning and distribution, information, books and utilization, but does not mention the provision of textbooks accessible to learners with disabilities. In parallel, the 2017–22 General Education Strategic Plan prioritizes the provision of assistive learning materials/devices. In this regard, the curriculum department planned to produce materials in Braille or with larger font sizes for visually impaired students and teacher guides with adaptive sign language for hearing-impaired learners. Finally, in conflict-affected areas, textbooks will be reprinted and distributed to the affected schools as they reopen.
In 2014, the Unified Teachers Training Curriculum was being reviewed to incorporate principles and practices of inclusive education. Likewise, the Gender Equity Through Education programme has provided financial and material incentives to over 4,500 girls to complete secondary school and to train young women graduates to enter the teaching profession. In parallel, the 2017–22 General Education Strategic Plan aims to promote girls’ education and inclusive education through the training of 30,000 teachers on inclusive education. In this regard, in initial training, secondary school graduates are recruited from surrounding communities and provided with education in the local language. The ministry also commits to provide inclusive education training to school head teachers and teachers so they are better able to accommodate varying learning needs within their schools/classrooms. The plan mentions, ‘The teacher education department will incorporate principles and methods for inclusive education into all forms of teacher training in order to change attitudes and expand education opportunities (at all levels) for learners with special educational needs.’ The plan states that the number of teachers trained in inclusive education should reach 4,000 by 2022. The 2014 National Inclusive Education Policy position paper also aims to develop capacity of teachers and staff to deliver quality services to learners requiring additional supports.
The country does not have a national monitoring report and there is no available data on the rate of succession and completion of education for children with disabilities or on out-of-school children with disabilities or adult learners with disabilities. In this regard, the 2014 National Inclusive Education Policy position paper highlights the importance of developing monitoring and evaluation instruments, with appropriate indicators, as part of the education management information system (EMIS). To do so, it aims to establish a database to monitor programme delivery and to publish a field monitoring and evaluation toolkit to control effectiveness of programme delivery. The current EMIS platform does not provide adequate information on retention, transition, or teachers’ or schools’ capabilities to support learning for pupils with disabilities.
The 2013 South Sudan National Disability and Inclusion Policy identified some key indicators linked to inclusive education, such as the proportion of persons with disabilities completing formal education by level. Similarly, the 2017–22 General Education Strategic Plan monitors the percentage of children with disabilities enrolled and the percentage of learners with disabilities mainstreamed into the formal system.