1) PROSPECTS FOR PEACE
Jean and I have just returned from a week of meetings in steamy Juba, where we began to sense some cautious optimism that the long delayed plans for formation of a government of national unity (GNU) may take place on February 22 or soon after, with the prospect of a multi-party election in 5 years time.
The negotiations by Catholic Group Sant Egidio in Rome seems to have persuaded the “holdout” and armed opposition groups to come within the negotiating process. Two key issues remain to be resolved. First, the number of States (10, 23 or 33?) and the consequent distribution of power, jobs and resources within the country. Second, the structure and processes of the GNU - the organisational shape of government and what roles and forms of representation and inclusion will be available to the wide range political parties and ethnic groups.
2) PRINCIPLES FOR EDUCATION
We were also invited by the Minister of Education Hon Deng Deng and Under-Secretary Dr Kuyok to attend a week long meeting of the General Education Annual Review (GEAR) – attended by all the Ministers and DG’s of Education from across the whole country, by all the top Ministry of Education officials, and by the country directors of key global partners (UNICEF, UNHCR, GPE, WPF, UKAID), and NGO’s (Save the Children, BRAC). This proved to be an excellent, well-organised working conference, with high levels of participation, debate and practical planning for the uplifting of educational performance across South Sudan. We were particularly impressed by the Ministry of Education’s determination to move forward from abstract planning to the delivery of practical programmes at State, County and local levels, building organisational capacity and getting things done at the front-line.
We were pleased to find high levels of support for many of the principles and standards we have promoted at IGBS, e.g. small class sizes (50 max.); all teachers to be paid, trained and have access to Continuous Professional Development (CPD); each pupil to have their own text book, and access to necessary equipment (e.g. for science); equal access to education for women; protection and promotion of safe-guarding, personal/sexual health education and provision, and legal action against early child marriage, gender-based violence etc.
3) POTENTIAL FUNDING
We were also pleased by the public support given the Minister of Education, the Under-Secretary and his DG’s for IGBS as a small scale but tried and tested demonstration project which should be supported and “replicated” in other parts of South Sudan. (Jean and I argued that “replication should not mean copy and paste, but graft and transplant”).
Hon Deng Deng, the Minister of Education, and Dr Kuyok the Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Education, with whom we've spent much time in discussion on our last 3 visits to Juba, convened a lunchtime meeting for Bridget, me and Jean to meet with the South Sudan country directors for several aid organisations (Save the Children; UNICEF; UNHCR; World Food Programme; BRAC; Finnish Church Aid; etc etc). He asked them all to donate to IGBS to help keep the school going through this difficult year ahead, as South Sudan needed to learn and spread the lessons from IGBS to other states, and could not do so if the school collapsed through lack of funding. Dr Kuyok asked Nagomoro Bridget to follow up all these people and organisations and we'll wait and see the outcome.
John Benington, Founding Chair of FIGS, with Jean Hartley, FIGS Trustee, and Nagamoro Bridget, Founding Chair of IGBS, 29th January 2020