A new film produced by Cambridge Education and Medical Aid Films showcases how UK aid’s Girls’ Education South Sudan (GESS) is reaching more than 200,000 girls in the famine and conflict-hit country. Cambridge Education is managing the GESS programme on behalf of the Department for International Development. The film, which features girls benefiting from the programme, will have its premiere at the Houses of Parliament in London on Wednesday 29 March 2017.
South Sudan is one of the toughest places on earth to be a girl in 2017. The conflict that started in December 2013 has left 1.8 million people displaced within the country and a further 1.4 million refugees in neighbouring countries. Famine has now been declared in parts of the country and the United Nations has warned that 100,000 people face starvation. A further one million are on the brink of famine, while half the population face severe food shortages.
Despite insecurity, economic collapse and logistical struggles, the GESS programme is continuing to successfully deliver its aim of educating the country’s poorest and most vulnerable girls, transforming a generation through education. In the last three years, the programme has reached over 3500 schools, with more than 9000 grants funding classrooms, latrines, books and much more. Over 300,000 cash transfers have been paid to more than 180,000 girls, while two million people have been reached through radio programmes aimed at changing the negative socio-cultural attitudes towards educating girls.
Through the GESS programme, cash transfers and grants make schools more likely to remain open, increase their enrolment numbers and boost attendance rates despite the violent conflict. Schools have reported how they have improved their infrastructure and employed more teachers, while there have also been improvements in girls’ learning outcomes, especially in primary schools.
Even during the worsening crisis, GESS has already received reports from more than 2500 schools in 2017. These reports are showing that UK aid is helping to hold together the social fabric of South Sudan at a time when it is under maximum pressure. Education can do more than mend the damage caused by conflict, it can help with long-term processes of peace building, strengthen and sustain the social fabric of the nation and provide essential building blocks for the long-term development of South Sudan. This is highly significant in a country where school-age children make up more than one third of the population.
The new film shows the remarkable progress made by GESS in helping girls achieve despite manmade catastrophe. With two thirds of South Sudan’s school-age children not in school, support from UK aid will remain crucial in transforming the lives of a generation of children in the world’s newest nation, especially its girls.