Education Challanges in South Sudan


SWe are pleased to share the recent testimony of Gabe Harris, a former member of Solidarity with South Sudan. He worked for Solidarity in Rome, then spent three years at the STTC in Yambio and finally in the administrative offices in Juba. He currently teaches in a secondary school in South Sudan.

August 2023

“I have lived in South Sudan for almost 6 years now and one thing I have come to understand is how far behind this country is due to some of the poorest educational systems in the world.     Now that I am teaching in a Secondary School environment, I am seeing first hand the challenges facing the country.     Most students in South Sudan have only a basic understanding of Math and English.  Many High School Students cannot add and subtract without using their fingers.  I wonder if they don’t understand the basics how can they study Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and more?   Due to a lack of books, hardly anyone reads, and their vocabulary is extremely limited.

The government has not shown any real urgency to correcting this terrible deficiency.  The syllabus has 12 compulsory subjects in Secondary School.  That is an awful lot of memorizing for students who can barely speak and read English.   Rarely are there Art, Music, PE or other such classes.   Some of the national curriculum is so theoretical that I wonder if the students will ever use any of this knowledge?

Teachers are hardly incentivized to work.   Many rarely receive their salaries on time or even some are not paid for months on end.   This creates an atmosphere of low professionalism.    Teachers often miss classes or arrive late or leave early. Many teachers actually have another job or a field they are cultivating.  Otherwise, they would not be able to survive.

School facilities are basic.   Supplies are limited, books are lacking and everything is either broken, chipped, in disrepair or terribly dirty.   The chalk and board are so poor, writing out notes is frustrating.    I start writing and the chalk breaks and I have to use my hands for erasers.   Desks, floors and chairs are all filthy.   By the end of the day, my hands and clothes are covered with the dust of several lessons.

The majority of St. Mary Secondary School’s 70 students are married or have children.  There are two young ladies who break from class twice a day to breast feed their babies; brought by the babysitter.   One of our 19-year-olds has a 4-year-old child in the parish nursery.  Another female student is 22 with a baby.   When I asked about the baby, she said that this was her fourth child!   This is reality for many of the students in South Sudan.

Here in St. Mary Magdalen, (they spell it without a final “e”),  students are not used to the discipline routines of a school schedule.  They frequently arrive late to class and often find excuses to miss classes throughout the day.   Many is the time where a student will simply stand up and stroll out of the class without even asking permission

So we continue on in the hopes of a better future.   I hope my presence can give courage to these who are living in such difficult situations.   With blessings for all…


Date Published:

15 September 2023


Gabe Harris, Former Solidarity Member


Article Tags:

Latest news, South Sudan, Solidarity, Education, Teaching in South Sudan

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