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Promoting access to quality, safe, and relevant education for all persons affected by crisis

Identifying Ways of Working through Conflict-Sensitive-Education Challenges in South Sudan

18 January 2019

By Maren Steller, Peacebuilding Analyst, Oxfam IBIS

With the aim to explore how to integrate INEE CSE standards and guidelines into ongoing education programs in South Sudan, Oxfam held a two-day workshop in Juba, South Sudan, from the 28-29 November 2018. The workshop brought together Oxfam staff and local partners, including colleagues from the INEE member organisations NRC and Finn Church Aid, working on diverse education programs in South Sudan. The workshop was facilitated by Oxfam, with support from the Conflict Sensitivity Resource Facility (CSRF).

The workshop gave space for participants to discuss how to approach challenges relating to Conflict Sensitivity in their planned and ongoing work. This was achieved through guided discussions along a set of scenarios, and based on challenges of participants in their ongoing work. The scenarios were developed through a short survey prior to the workshop on existing practices surrounding INEE CSE standards application, on Oxfam’s own Education in Fragile Situations standards, and on the challenges in applying these standards.

Click to watch a video interview with Guo Rose Kasara, Literacy Adviser
with DANIDA Education Project, following the workshop on Conflict Sensitive Education
held in Juba, South Sudan on 28-29 November 2018.

In the context of South Sudan, a country of multiple ethnic groups, inclusiveness, as well as equitable access to and distribution of education was highlighted as one of the key factors for promoting national unity and peace. The scenarios used in the workshop drew on a set of difficulties in the quest to ensure inclusiveness and equitable distribution of education, ranging from the selection of the language of instruction, teacher selection and payment, sustainability of programs, selection of school locations, and mobile schools.

For example, the discussions on the difficulties in selecting a language of instruction in South Sudan drew out the following dilemmas which participants face often in their work: 

  • Especially in early primary school grades it has been shown that mother-tongue instruction yield the greatest learning results. In some areas of the country which are home to different groups of different sizes, as well as areas hosting IDPs, it is, however, difficult to have schools offering classes in each mother-tongue. It is therefore likely that certain children might not have the option to learn in their mother-tongue, a possible factor for exclusion.
  • Instruction in English could offer a remedy, and promoting English as the national language and as a factor for unity is recognized as vital. However, availability of teachers with sufficient English knowledge and of English teaching materials is a challenge, particularly in remote areas.
  • In addition participants encountered situations in their own work where parents had sent their children to school in hope that they would learn English, but in light of the unavailability or lack of sufficient English teaching, parents were frustrated and even reject sending their children.

Faced with these and similar dilemmas, the scenario exercise brought out clearly some of the risks that education programs face; in some cases the progams actively contribute to exclusion and even exacerbate existing grievances in communities.

Amongst the many ways explored on how education programs might contribute to peace and social cohesion, community participation and consultation was identified as key. Involving communities, including in the form of parent-teacher associations, enables finding solutions that are acceptable to all and lets the community itself become part of the solution. It creates transparency about the program, but also about the possible difficulties in carrying it out in an inclusive way. In addition, a strong case was made for knowing the context one is engaging in, knowing community grievances and needs by means of conflict analysis. The identified ways will now feed into the development of contextualised guidelines and the aim of strengthening CSE in Oxfam’s work in South Sudan in 2019. 

© Oxfam Ibis
CSE Workshop participants working on education programs ranging from teacher supervision to protection and EP&R, ALP programs, and adult literacy. 29 Nov 2018, Juba, South Sudan.


Maren Steller is a Peacebuilding Analyst at Oxfam IBIS. She discusses the recent CSE workshop hosted by Oxfam in South Sudan and ways of working for ensuring education programs in South Sudan are conflict sensitive.