The low base from which to build South Sudan’s education system is well-understood. Five decades of civil war (and continuing instability in some states) has had devastating consequences on lives and presents enormous challenges. Many South Sudanese have never been to school and the majority of teachers have had no formal training. There have been different responses to these challenges by various bodies, agencies, donors and government officials. One of these has been the Alternative Education System (AES). The aim of the AES is to assist the economic and social reintegration of the generations who did not have access to formal education during war, or have dropped out of school due to the conflict.
The AES approach is aimed at improving access to basic education, to enhance life skills and basic occupational skill training to primary school students, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), demobilised soldiers, and other non-traditional learners. It is considered by many to be a keystone of South Sudan’s re-building process. It includes seven programmes targeted at different groups with support from the Ministry of General Education and Instruction (MoGEI) and a number of international development partners. These are the:
- ALP (Accelerated Learning Programme): This is aimed at over-aged primary school population, from 12-18 years of age (although many older people attend ALP) who want to complete a primary education, take the Primary School Leaving Exam, and go on to secondary school. It is estimated that over 50 percent of the current primary school population are over-aged and, thus, should be in ALP. The ALP programme is four years (Levels 1-4) and covers the school curriculum for P1-P8 at double the pace of a normal school programme.
- BALP (Basic Adult Literacy Programme): BALP is aimed at improving widespread illiteracy in South Sudan by promoting literacy and numeracy among adults ages 18 and above who have not previously has access to basic education owing to barriers of tradition, socio-economic status, and the civil war. It is a four-year programme with content similar to the ALP.
- CGS (Community Girls’ Schools): This is aimed at young girls from poor backgrounds between 8- 11 years old. The curriculum is compressed to cover P1-P4 in just three years.
- PEP (Pastoralist Education Programme): This is a new programme designed for children in cattle camps and covers the standard primary school curriculum. As with CGS, the PEP programme provides an alternative approach to school-age children who would not otherwise have access to a primary school education.
- IELC (Intensive English Language Course): The IELC focuses on teaching and learning English, and is especially oriented towards teachers and government officials, who must be able to function well in English.
- Agro-Forestry: This is a programme aimed at helping the small-farming practices of those who work on the land.
- SSIRI (South Sudan Interactive Radio Instruction Programme): SSIRI offers a number of programmes, all of which are administered as part of the programme of the AES Directorate. The main SSIRI programme is the ‘Learning Village’, which is aimed at children already in formal education at primary level. The programme also has a small audio series to support teacher training.
We examined the impact of donor nations’ contributions to the seven main elements of the South Sudan government’s national AES programmes. This included the Community Girls’ Schools run by the Bangladesh NGO BRAC, Intensive English Language Courses (funded by DFID and delivered by the British Council, the Windle Trust, the Norwegian Refugee Council and Save the Children) and Basic and Adult Literacy Programmes being designed by UNESCO and run through a number of agencies including IBIS, Warchild, VSO, OXFAM and church organisations.
We conducted an extensive survey of all of these NGO’s work in each of South Sudan’s 10 States including activity at County level. We followed up our discussions in Juba with field visits to agency work in Rumbeck in Lakes State. Among our recommendations was to create an ESOL Standards and Credit Framework linked to the Common European framework of Reference (CEFR). All of this informed our work with MoEST and UNICEF in 2015 when we developed an English Language Policy Framework, which was later accepted and approved by the government.