The plight of South Sudan teachers is very worrying, most of them take home between USD 5 (Ksh500) to USD 22 (Ksh 2,200) per month which is way below the global benchmark for absolute poverty at USD 2 per day and below the official earnings for teachers which is between USD 40 (Ksh 4,000) and USD 260 (Ksh26,000).
The poor education system can be traced to the country’s political and social history, upon its independence in 2011, the East African nation had the highest public spending per capita while the education sector gained the lowest share of 5 percent.
In the 2019/2020 budget, the Salva Kiir government committed more resources to security that in social infrastructure, which makes professions like teaching a subject of mockery for many.
In June 2019, the South Sudanese Government announced plans to borrow USD 500 mn (Sh50 bn) from the Africa Export-Import Bank to pay public servants. This will be an addition to the USD 56 mn (Sh5.6 bn) it received from EU to boost agriculture, education and health sector.
The government has been grappling with cases of teachers fainting in classes while teaching as well as changing their careers in a bid to make ends meet.
According to Levi Simbe Lasu, the assistant teacher of Juba Day Secondary school, he has to double his role as a teacher with farming in order to supplement his income.
“I do agriculture in the nearby village in Rajaf in the south west of Juba. The salary cannot meet my needs. It is meager and does not come on time,” he said.
Many other teachers have left work, changed jobs or sought to enter work in private schools which offers better pay.
Moreover, teaching in the conflict-zone areas is faced with various challenges including being vulnerable to brutal attacks by armed forces which traumatizes teachers and children who are affected by direct fighting, torture, abduction, and killing.
The crisis has been worsened by reports that three in four students are leaving school in the country, according to a report by UNESCO, almost three-quarters of the adult population is illiterate, one of the highest rates in the world.
In an interview with The EastAfrican, Mr Lasu added that many other teachers have been hooked with the teaching jobs since they cannot return to their farms because of the war.
“Despite their vital role in enlightening and inspiring the next generation of leaders, they work in very poor conditions which do not help them to fulfill this mission well,” Sr Akumu Lilly Grace, another teacher added.
Featured Image Courtesy: HumanRightsWatch