Lifeplayers for Primary School Education in World’s Newest Country

South Sudan

Having recently emerged from nearly four decades of conflict, in which two million people were killed and four million displaced, South Sudan, the world’s newest country, also has the world’s lowest education indicators.

Countries like South Sudan, struggling to deliver quality education, are exactly why Lifeline Energy created the solar-powered Lifeplayer MP3. Nearly three quarters of South Sudan’s population can neither read nor write and according to the Overseas Development Institute less than two percent have completed a primary education and even less completed secondary school. Working with the Educational Development Center (EDC), our Lifeplayer MP3s are being pre-loaded with primary school content.

After the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in 2005, primary enrollment soared. Class sizes are the largest in Africa, with more than 100 pupils per class. There are acute shortages of classrooms, books, school supplies and teachers.

One of the programmes to help address the professional development of teachers is the South Sudan Teacher Education Program (SSTEP) — a three-year nationwide initiative funded by USAID and implemented by EDC to strengthen primary school education.  It will assist the Ministry of General Education and Instruction in the management of the overall education system, develop and shape policies, refine and mobilise a training curriculum, improve teacher performance and advance gender equity.

To help address these massive educational needs, a significant number of our Lifeplayer MP3s pre-loaded with an audio primary school curriculum called Learning Village are being integrated into the SSTEP initiative. Learning Village, which covers Grades 1 to 4, was broadcast on 19 local radio stations; however, this has ended due to cost.  By utilising our Lifeplayers, not only will the programmes be able to continue, but also if a child misses a lesson, it can be made up. The MP3 function enables programmes to be played on demand. This is especially important in conflict areas or in places prone to flooding during the rainy season. It’s envisaged that tens of thousands of learners will benefit from this intiative.

Proportionately South Sudan has fewer girls in school than any other country and girls make up only one in four school children.  Although education is a priority, the government is struggling to build an education system in a country where most of its eight million population live in rural areas and where many still experience displacement through ongoing conflict with their northern neighbour, Sudan.  Furthermore, the education needs of millions of adults who missed out on school also need to be addressed.

The teacher shortage is severe and less than 1 in 15 teachers is female.  Not even half of the teaching force have completed a primary education themselves, resulting in poor quality instruction.