Young girls in South Sudan are defying all odds including cultural practices in order to attain education for a brighter future.
In South Sudan statistics show that high percentage of girls in the country are being married before their 18th, birthday and a small percentage are married before reaching their 15th, birthday.
This could be attributed to poverty, a way of gaining wealth and status, building family relationships or even blood compensation.
Speaking to our reporter a teenager Angelina narrated her ordeal about how she was married off to an older man in her village without her knowledge.
The young girl now a student in one of the schools in Yei says she was once denied access to education because her parents had already married her to an older man who had paid all the dowry according to the traditions.
Angelina with help from her uncle escaped from the parents’ house in Bar -el -Ghazel and traveled to Central Equatoria state.
She stresses it was very difficult for her to convince her parents to send her to school since they had already agreed to her marry her off to that man who paid herds of cattle to them.
“I am one of those denied access to education by my parents who wanted me to get married instead of being in class. I felt so bad when they reached an agreement with the man who was going to marry me because I knew that my future would be reigned. I managed to escape from my parents through the help of my uncle in Yei who did not support the idea of my parents to marry me off. I found it very difficult to go about it but through my uncle, things became easier, so I want to thank him for accepting me and supping my education,” she explains
Angelina is grateful to her uncle for not letting her parents marry her off at her tender age but rather supports her studying.
The young girl aspires to be medical personnel after completion of her studies.
Another student Anna says many girls are affected by this negative cultural believes of their communities whereby girls are left to do domestic work.
She appeals to parents to give equal opportunity to both girls and boys to have access to education for a brighter future.
“our communities’ cultural practices affect us so much by preventing some of our colleagues from attending school. Some of our communities believes that girls are meant for domestic work only. I am not happy that parents prefer to marry off their daughters at early age just because they wanted money, but I want to tell them that they should not generate income by selling off their girls whom when they educate, would support them in future. we should not be denied access to school because of our brothers. Let us all be considered and granted equal opportunities,” the student requests.
A secondary school student Davian Dawa blames parents who are ignorant about girl child education which also contributes to high rate of school dropout.
The learner calls on the government to improve security in the rural areas so that boarding schools like Yei girls boarding secondary school will re-opened.
“I blame some of our parents because they are ignorant towards our education which contributes to drop out from school. Education opportunities are not equally provided by our parents because they think that when they educate girls, they will benefit the clans to which they are going to be married to. Lack of boarding schools in the county has also severely affected girls’ performance as they are always overworked at home having little time for revising their books. If schools like Yei girls boarding secondary school had existed till today, it would have positive impacted the future of girls in Yei. We therefore call on our government to work quickly for peace by implementing the agreement so that boarding schools are opened for girls,” appeals Davian.
Agnes Kiden is a single parent, she admitted that most of the culture have negative practices that abolishes girl’s education.
She regrets that poverty has also played its part as some parents are unable to afford for the school requirements of the children.
The single parent explained that it was not easy to meet the needs of her children after their father died.
“it is true that there are cultures in our communities which are damaging the future of our girls. Some culture does not allow girls to attend school because they believe it is a waste of resources. Others believe that girls are sources of income especially poor families. However, poverty has also done a big part as some of us are unable to pay for the school fees of the children hence contributing to sending them for marriage to support the brothers go to school and improve their home status. Despite the difficulty I go through I have been able to pay my children in school both boys and girls as I talk now two of them have completed senior four. I want to advise the communities to stop marrying off their girls because money but instead let them struggle to pay the girls in school and see the difference in future,” appeals Kiden.
Agnes mentioned that despite the difficult situation she went through, she did not allow any of her daughters to get married but encouraged them to continue studying to improve the status of their family in the future.