UNICEF challenges pupils to embrace reading culture for language proficiency

UNICEF challenges pupils to embrace reading culture for language proficiency
Unicef Chief Field Officer for greater Bar El Ghazal, Padmavathi Yedla. [Photo credit to Cliff Ochaya]

The Chief Field Officer for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in greater Bahr El Ghazal has urged children in the region to cultivate and embrace the reading culture to increase their command of the English language.

UNICEF’s chief field officer, Padmavathi Yedla, encouraged the children to take reading seriously if they want to become fluent in English through practice, understanding, and enjoyment of learning.

Yedla spoke at an interschool reading competition in Western Bar El Ghazal. The event was organised by the State Ministry of General Education and Instruction in collaboration with development partners such as UNICEF, Help a Child, and Transform Communities in Wau under the theme “Let’s read to better understand English” on Wednesday.

“I can assure you children that when you all know how to read, it all goes to yourself.” I enjoy reading books. “You will enjoy reading stories your entire life,” she said.

“Reading is very important for you to practise unless you practise every day. You must [do it]; there is no point in being shy; it makes no difference whether you speak incorrect English or complicated English; you must practice, she emphasized.

She advised pupils to let go of their fears of making mistakes as they practised speaking English. She also urged teachers to let youngsters speak their minds, whether they speak correctly or not.

 “For the teachers who teach English, encourage them to enjoy it. It does not matter whether they speak wrongly, just help them have that passion in them to understand it better, ” Yedla stressed.

According to a report released last year in July by the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust, South Sudan faces significant challenges, including a high concentration of students in the early grades, a high proportion of over-age students, year-to-year repetition and dropout rates, and low overall quality of education provision.

‘‘Throughout Africa, education is highly valued. However, educational structures in many nations face major challenges for a variety of reasons, including poverty and conflict. This is also true in South Sudan, where the education system is in high demand but suffers from a lack of funding and capacity,’’ the agency stated.

It stated that following independence in 2011, state and peace-building measures created a great demand for the education sector to expand quickly and minimise inequities. Despite this, public education spending is among the lowest in the world. The administration and management institutions are primitive, and fighting has degraded them even more.

In South Sudan, there are over two million children, yet there are only 8,000 primary schools, 120 secondary schools, five public universities, and a few teacher training colleges to fulfil the growing demand for teacher training. 

70 per cent of South Sudanese children are out of school, and 63 per cent of teachers lack formal education, the organisation noted in the report.

Poverty, child marriage, and cultural and religious perspectives all make it difficult for girls to get an education. It is widely understood that these factors jeopardise the children’s futures, as well as the country’s.