Catholic Teacher in South Sudan Worried Prolonged Lockdown May Lead to Early Marriages

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As schools in South Sudan remain closed in adherence to a fresh lockdown in the East-Central African nation, a Catholic teacher in the country’s Yei Diocese is concerned that the situation exposes school going children to various challenges including early pregnancies and marriages.

South Sudan issued new lockdown measures on February 3, directing closure of all pre-schools, schools, universities and all the other learning institutions.

Those exempted in the new measures include classes scheduled for examinations “with observations of strict protective measures.”

Addressing local media during supervision of Primary school exams scheduled to end Friday, February 12, Mr. Samuel Maude of Christ the King Primary School said that early pregnancies had already been recorded among school going girls during the first COVID-19 lockdown in the country following the outbreak of the coronavirus.

“If this COVID-19 lockdown stays longer like last year, we will have more pregnancy issues. Last year many of our pupils aged 13 years and below got pregnant at home,” Mr. Maude said Wednesday, February 10.


The Catholic teacher explained, “It isn’t just the primary school children. Even those girls in secondary schools have been affected and the situation could get worse. We’ll end up losing so many learners.”

Last year, Support Peace Development Initiative Organization (SPIDO) documented 1,535 cases of child marriages and teenage pregnancies since South Sudan shut down schools in mid-March as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Concerned about the situation this year, Maude appealed, “I wish the government could keep the schools open to keep girls away from the dangers they face outside the class. I am worried that if they stay away up to April, many of our girls will not come back to school.”

“I have seen this issue of early pregnancies and drugs as setbacks to the school children multiple times,” the Catholic teachers recalled.

He added, “We have learners who have registered in primary eight, but currently have dropped out before sitting for the final exam because they have been at home for many months.”

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The nine-year-old country struggles with some of the lowest education indicators. Over half of primary and lower-secondary-age children are not accessing an education. The adult literacy rate is about 32 per cent. For women, it is 25 percent.