For South Sudan learners, floods threaten to wash away access to education

Two boys pick their way along a flooded road in South Sudan as heavy rains in Ethiopia flood refugee camps in Maban county-Photo by UNHCR/Elizabeth Stuart
Two boys pick their way along a flooded road in South Sudan as heavy rains in Ethiopia flood refugee camps in Maban county-Photo by UNHCR/Elizabeth Stuart

Several school-going learners in South Sudan’s Jonglei state continue to grapple with the upheavals of floods as the magnitude of the disaster unfolds for the two consecutive years.

The government recently approved 10 million U.S. dollars as an emergency relief package to support people affected by floods in seven states across the country since May.

Ajah Mawut Garang, 16, a seventh grade pupil in Jonglei state, said wading through water on a daily basis has become a routine practice to her, noting that she hopes for a better future.

“I wake up at 5 a.m. and then paddle floodwaters at the height level of my throat for almost 30-50 minutes before commencing classes at 6:00 a.m. with the hope that flood will subside and life may return to normalcy,” Mawut said.

Ezekiel Chok Chuei, is another learner who lives about 5-8 kilometers away from the school and said he spends two to three hours coming to school in search of knowledge amid flooding in the area.

“I am staying in Ci Nuer Ben, a mile away from here, it is difficult but I cannot leave learning,” said Chuei.

Peter Jol Maker, a headteacher at Panapet primary school, said the school was completely submerged in water, noting that learners are braving flooding for education in just a temporary learning space erected in some higher ground.

“The school was also devastated by a flood last year in May 2020 which displaced the school and we have now migrated from this school to a higher ground near Suk, South of Bor County, Jonglei State,” Maker told Xinhua.

Maker said the school has registered 630 learners and 15 teachers, noting that accessibility to the school has become difficult to learners since their school has no boat.

“The impact of the flood is huge, books and chalk were destroyed, all learning materials have been destroyed, the flood came at night, we are teaching because we got learning material from UNICEF, we are learning under trees,” Maker said.

“The school was evacuated in May, we are now in need of enough classrooms, stores, and boreholes, now that school children are learning under temporary learning spaces,” he added.

Nyantiop Deng, a 40-year-old mother of six said she is waking up every morning to take the smaller children especially those in a nursery and lower primary to school, noting that the bigger ones wade on their own to school.

Duku Francis Denison, the UNICEF education specialist for Jonglei state, said over 200 schools have been flooded across Jonglei, adding that schools are relocated to higher grounds with the help of the community.

” We are dealing with a very massive disaster, as much as we try our best to support flooded schools, the impact is daunting and we are struggling to find more resources and it is not easy, we are trying to find more resources to be able to respond better,” Denison added.

An estimated 400,000 people have been affected and displaced by heavy flooding, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

OCHA noted that the worst affected populations by floods are in Jonglei, Unity, Warrap, Greater Pibor Administrative Area, Lakes, Northern Bahr-el-Ghazal and Upper Nile state.