Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Accelerated Learning Programs in South Sudan

     School in Southern Sudan is divided into two levels: Primary School, which consists of grades 1 through 8, and Secondary School, which includes Forms 1 through 4. In all states of South Sudan except Western Equatoria, less than five percent of children have completed Primary School; in Western Equatoria, the number is between 5 and 10 percent. Some of the reasons so few have completed even eight years of school include: a large number of people having been displaced from their homes due to war, famine, or poverty; a large number of people living a semi-nomadic lifestyle and the expectation that boys will spend time away from home in cattle camps; the need for girls to take responsibility for household chores; cultural attitudes and beliefs which do not emphasize academic learning; and a lack of schools, teachers, and supplies.

     In many parts of Africa including South Sudan, people who have had to leave school for a period of time – even for several years – and then desire to return to school go back to the same grade they were in when they left, even though they may now be many years older than other students in that grade. This results in undesirable situations in classrooms such as having 7 year olds studying alongside men in their twenties.

     The Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) has been developed as an alternative, faster system of learning for older children and adults. Eight years of primary school are condensed into four, with students typically attending school for only 3 to 4 hours per day. The condensed timetable enables older children who are studying in the lower grades to catch up with their peers, and girls are attracted to the reduced hours, which allows more time for them to complete their duties at home. As a result, a higher percentage of girls study in ALP programs than in normal primary school. This includes girls who are already mothers, which is notable – because traditionally, mothers attending school would not have been acceptable in their communities.   

     In addition to the regular syllabus taught in South Sudan Schools, the ALP curriculum also teaches life skills such as vocational skills, parenting skills, leadership, health education including HIV/AIDS, gender issues and peace building. ALP programs are resulting in rising literacy rates of young people, especially girls. They are also contributing to increased confidence, in particular for girls, and to youth of both genders being better prepared to be productive members of society. Mercy Beyond Borders is a proud supporter of ALP programs in the towns of Mapuordit and Boma, South Sudan.

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