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Awerial county commissioner accused of advocating against girl child education

Awerial county commissioner accused of advocating against girl child education
A dance group in Awerial County. The practice is common among Awerial and (neighboring) Bor girls | Credit | Anyar Kuol/TRC

Teachers in Awerial, Lakes State, have accused the county government of making cultural entertainment activities more attractive than the girl child education in the county.

Girls’ education is the most efficient strategy for breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty and lifting families and communities from a place of marginalization, according to UN.

Only one girl in ten, it says, completes primary education in South Sudan, and girls comprise just a third of the secondary school population.

But in Awerial County, some girls and young women spend most of their day in tree shades, composing praise songs about politicians, wrestlers, and other important figures in the community.

Others have formed dance groups. They spend time practicing and later show off in their group uniforms during events.

The county commissioner then dishes out goodies such as bulls and cash to the best performing girls’ group – indirectly making girl child education unattractive, according to the teachers.

“Your government funds cultural activities with bulls, money, and other valuable resources to show your happiness to those girls who do well in representing cultures,” said Kuol Buol, Pan-Nhial Primary School headteacher.

In November, Awerial County Commissioner Philip Mawut Garang awarded 13 bulls to different cultural groups who welcomed him to the office during his appointment in October.

Buol expressed fears, saying the prestigious gifts are becoming a barrier to the girl child education in the county.

“Those girls are school children. They get attracted by those activities and never get a chance to complete their studies,” Buol said at an event organized by Windle Trust International and Help Education – South Sudan aimed at campaigning for the return of young mothers to school.

The event was attended by county officials, chiefs, women leaders, youth leaders, teachers, learners, and NGO representatives.

For his part, Jeremiah Makur Jok – head teacher of Glorious Girls’ Primary School, appealed to the government to empower education by enacting bylaws that protect schoolgirls from forced and early marriages.

“If you love education, please enact bylaws that will punish people who marry off young girls at early age so that they have time to study,” Makur told county officials.

In response, the Acting County Commissioner for Awerial – Shadrach Chol Majok – who was the guest of honor, said the county government would look into the concern.

“The county government is committed to looking into the challenges facing education and we will forward those challenges to the state government for further rectification,” Chol stated.

The one-day campaign was marked under the theme: “The time is now, let the young mothers go back to school.”

This year, Lakes state parliament enacted laws that criminalize marrying off schoolgirls.