Empowering girls by improving education in South Sudan

A project has helped cut the primary school dropout rate for girls by 39 percent in local communities in South Sudan.

The country has one of the lowest primary school completion rates in the world. Many children
regularly miss class or drop out of school due to illness, hunger, a lack of school supplies, household or paid work and unsafe conditions. Girls are faced with the most challenging obstacles to regularly attending school, including early marriage and other issues. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, only 6 percent of girls in South Sudan complete primary school.

An Italian-funded project in Lakes and Eastern Equatoria states is working to change this by building and renovating schools, training teachers and local workers, raising awareness and engaging communities.

Managed by UNOPS, the project is currently benefiting 13,500 students.

Infrastructure and procurement

UNOPS has successfully managed the construction and equipping of 12 schools and has renovated two more, helping to create a safe and clean learning environment for children and teachers. Water and sanitation facilities have also been constructed, including boreholes to provide children with fresh drinking water. Separate toilets for girls and boys have been built, as sharing is often cited as a reason girls do not attend school. UNOPS has also procured the needed teaching materials.  

As many families in the region do not have food security, vegetable gardens have been created on available land at the schools and continue to provide meals for students and teachers, as well as additional income. 

Watch this video about our project in South Sudan

Mobilizing local communities

Local communities have been engaged throughout the project, in order to ensure that the project creates the most positive, long-term outcomes.

Local workers were hired and trained in the construction and maintenance of the facilities, and 100 teachers were trained in child-friendly teaching methods. 

Ongoing dialogue has been essential in understanding and addressing community concerns, ensuring community ownership and building excitement around the activities.

 "When we educate a young lady, we educate the nation."

– Kongor Deng Kongor
Lakes state Director-General at the Ministry of Education

For example, local mothers have been trained in the production of sanitary napkins, which are provided to girls for free or at a reduced cost. These mothers have gone on to train other mothers and girls, creating large groups with the necessary skills needed to make the products. Access to affordable hygiene products has been identified as a key driver for keeping girls in school, otherwise they stay home during their menstruation period and quickly fall behind.

Another highlight of the project has been the launch of SHE magazine, which encourages girls to take on leadership roles in their communities. Aside from textbooks, the magazine is the first reading material for girls at the project locations.

In addition, the schools host girls’ clubs, parent-teacher associations, gender equality training, and health and hygiene workshops for female students and their mothers.

Positive outcomes

The project has helped cut the rate of girls dropping out of school before grade eight by 39 percent in the target areas, and overall school attendance has increased by more than 30 percent. Students in Lakes and Eastern Equatoria states now have access to improved facilities and parents are more willing to send their children to school.


17 percent of girls in the Lakes and Eastern Equatoria States miss school due to their period and the lack of basic sanitary napkins.

In addition, parent-teacher associations have grown stronger and more active in advocating for students’ education, helping to convince parents to postpone their daughters’ marriages until after high school graduation.

Angelina, 14, has taken care of her five brothers since she was seven. She is now one of the students benefiting from the project. "I am very proud of my school," she said. "I want to complete my education and become a doctor."


Kongor Deng Kongor, Lakes state Director-General at the Ministry of Education said: "In this state the majority of the population, of the youngsters, are the girls, and we need this population to be educated. When we educate a young lady, we educate the nation."

UNOPS in focus