Efforts are being made across Africa to provide each student with a textbook
James Lukudu has been attending school for nine years and, during that time, has never had his own textbook. He shared a single book with five to seven other students.
But since the new school term began on September 10, Lukudu has turned the page in his schooling progress. Now in Form 2 at Winyi Secondary School in Eastern Equatoria State of South Sudan, Lukudu is a picture of confidence as he sits with his own textbooks in class. This turnaround has been made possible by the donation of more than 1.3 million textbooks and teacher's guidebooks by the Chinese Government to South Sudan.
Lukudu said that each of the 40 students in his class now has their own textbooks.
"We were told the textbooks we are now using were donated by the Chinese Government. I thank China for giving us these books. We are likely to improve in our performance because each one of us in class can use a book of our own and read at our own pace," said Lukudu.
Inspector of Schools in South Sudan Leonard Loket said that the books, printed in China, include subjects like English, science, and mathematics and arrived before the third term commenced. He said the books will go a long way to improving the standard of education in the country where access to textbooks has been a perennial problem.
"Our country attained independence on July 9, 2011 and even after that, it has been going through several problems including civil wars. Little money has been made available for the education authority to buy books. The donation of books from China has come at the right time when we need the books urgently," said Loket.
He said that the books were written in a collaborative effort between Chinese and South Sudanese educational experts and the donation is part of the Technical Cooperation Project of Education in South Sudan. According to Xinhua News Agency, the project is organized by China's Ministry of Commerce and contracted to China South Publishing and Media Group, a major book publisher in China.
Three consultancy reports, the Research Report on Education Development of South Sudan, Guide on Developing a Modern Education System for South Sudan, and Guide on Developing ICT Education for South Sudan, were subsequently submitted by China to the South Sudanese Government.
"The reports are in accordance with the reality and the needs of South Sudan. Also, China's experience in education development is shared in these reports and communications from the Chinese team," according to South Sudan's education authority.
Senior English teacher, Barnabas Okwil said that the books are appropriately designed to suit the needs of South Sudanese students and the subject matter is well researched and relatable to the the country's students.
"The books fit our curriculum [and are designed with] beautiful covers. They have South Sudan's national flag printed on the upper left of the book covers. Below on the right side of the books is a beautifully printed China Aid label," said Okwil.
Thomas Longwi, Headmaster of Aliri Secondary School in Western Equatoria State, said that shortage of textbooks in schools has been a big problem. "Can you imagine in some of the schools, between six and 10 students have been sharing one textbook? Such a situation is good for neither students nor teachers. It is good that the Chinese Government has cooperated with us."
Longwi said that in addition to donating books, about 200 teachers from South Sudan were taken to China to be trained by Chinese education experts.
"Those teachers were taught how to use the textbooks and teacher's guides in class. They will also train fellow teachers in South Sudan on how to use the books."
Pius Madit, an education consultant in Juba said that the books were a result of well-planned and coordinated efforts between Chinese education experts and South Sudanese senior teachers of English, mathematics and science.
"The Chinese [education] textbook experts came to our country and visited several schools, interacting with teachers, head teachers and students before coming up with what to include in the books," said Madit.
Education cooperation model
Undersecretary of the Ministry of General Education and Instruction of South Sudan Michael Lopuke Lotyam thanked China for donating the books. He said the books donation will consolidate the relationship between the two countries and it is a good example of bilateral cooperation in education.
"The books will help students to easily acquire knowledge and will also improve the basic education environment of South Sudan," said Lotyam.
Parent Stanley Lingalinga said that he was excited when his son came back home with textbooks given to him at school.
"The one who gives you knowledge gives you wealth. And that is what China is doing to our children," said Lingalinga.
Lingalinga, a retired civil servant, said that he found the contents of the textbooks are appropriate because local examples specific to South Sudanese life are used.
That is not the first time China has supported South Sudan. On May 26, in the country's capital Juba, Chinese officials handed over 2,048 tons of rice to the World Food Program to assist millions of people affected by the conflict in war-torn South Sudan. Chinese Ambassador to South Sudan He Xiangdong said at the time that the food donation is part of China's efforts to support South Sudan which faced food shortage.
Apart from donating books and rice, China also plays a big role in contributing to security in South Sudan, where Chinese peace keepers are a regular feature.
On September 12, a group of 165 Chinese peacekeepers arrived in the South Sudanese capital Juba from Zhengzhou, the capital city of central China's Henan Province.
The peacekeepers, including 133 soldiers and a medical unit of 32, are reportedly part of the 331-strong battalion being sent by China for the mission.
(Reporting from South Sudan)
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