International Day of the Girl Child


Today is International Day of the Girl Child, and FIGS CEO Mark Simmons comments on how far we have come and how far we still have to go in achieving both equality and quality in education in South Sudan.

South Sudan has been named the worst country in the world for a girl to get an education and has the world’s lowest school enrolment rates and highest illiteracy rates. The gender gap is startling. Twice as many boys as girls are in school, and nearly twice as many boys as girls can read and write. There has been some progress over the last 15 years, but from an extremely low base. In 2004, only 11% of girls even started primary school, and more than half of them dropped out, and while the drop-out rate is still similar, two-and-a-half times more girls than before now enrol in school.

Four years old last month, the Sustainable Development Goals link the many and varied aspects of the way we manage our world and our lives, and we should be cautious about looking at any one goal in isolation. Goal 4 on education clearly overlaps with Goal 5 on gender equality and Goal 1 on poverty reduction and Goal 16 on stronger and more equitable institutions, and many others.

These are ambitious goals. Just look at some of the aims of Goal 4:

  • to ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes;
  • to ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university;
  • to increase substantially the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship;
  • to eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations;
  • to ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity;
  • to build and upgrade education facilities that are child-, disability- and gender-sensitive and provide safe, nonviolent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all.

Ibba Girls’ Boarding School may be the best school in South Sudan in terms of its results, and it is certainly better resourced than other schools, with ‘luxuries’ such as qualified teachers, access to textbooks, and a safe learning environment. And the more we show what is possible in South Sudan, the more we will stimulate the supply and demand for educational improvements so that the country as a whole can meet the targets to which it – along with the rest of the world – is committed. But even this one good school does not yet fully meet all these criteria and needs your continued support. As across the world we celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child and look both how far we have come and how far we still have to go, will you help us rise to the challenge of realising these Sustainable Development Goal targets by 2030?

Mark Simmons, FIGS CEO, 11 October 2019

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