South Sudan

What to prioritize when everything is a priority? Crisis-sensitive education sector planning in South Sudan


Executive summary

As a new country, South Sudan has developed its education sector from the ground up. While meaningful progress has been made, the process has been complicated by a struggling economy, extreme poverty, lack of infrastructure, and renewed conflict. The political strife that flared up within the country in 2013, natural disasters such as seasonal flooding, outbreaks of cholera, and severe food insecurity have all hampered advances in the development of many sectors, including that of education. These realities underline the urgent need to mainstream conflict and disaster risk management into sector analysis and planning processes.

This case study outlines the process of developing an education sector analysis (ESA) and education sector plan (ESP) in risk-prone contexts, with an aim to illustrate the transformational potential of education through long-term prevention measures and preparedness planning. The UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) first provided South Sudan’s Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (MoEST) with support to help rebuild its education system in 2010, culminating with technical cooperation to develop the country’s 2017–2021 ESA and ESP beginning in October 2015.

Various actors were involved in the ESA/ESP process, including the UNESCO Office in Juba, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and Protect Education in Insecurity and Conflict (PEIC).
The study examines the ESA/ESP development process used in South Sudan – offering insights into challenges and enabling factors – and concludes with a set of key lessons learned. Interviews with representatives from the MoEST, partner organizations, and donors conducted for the study found that the ESA/ESP process was seen within the country as an important way to secure funding for education, guide a common vision for education, and improve the coordination of education actors.

The ESA/ESP development process itself was seen as an opportunity to strengthen MoEST capacities in education sector analysis and planning, and so relied on a variety of capacity development modalities including technical workshops and advocacy. Participation of all education stakeholders was key, as was MoEST ownership. Representatives from all 10 states participated in the process, alongside representatives from the donor community and civil society. Finally, the availability of education data from the country’s education management information system (EMIS), as well as the availability of crisis-related data, greatly facilitated the analysis process.

The most pressing challenges encountered during the process included the relatively short timeline for carrying out the ESA and ESP, and high staff turnover within the MoEST and among humanitarian and development partners. In addition, political instability and limited prospects for lasting peace – coupled with the ongoing economic crisis and limited visibility regarding forthcoming funding for education – further complicated the process.

The following set of lessons learned emerged from the process in South Sudan:

• Government leadership and the strong participation of national authorities reinforce ownership and alignment of partners’ efforts.

• Developing capacities for crisis-sensitive education sector planning is a long process that may ultimately be undermined by the crisis itself.

• The planning process can contribute to fostering social cohesion.

• There is a need to build upon the complementarity of different organizations and ensure strong coordination, so as to effectively support ministries of education to develop plans that are crisis-sensitive.

• Bridging the humanitarian–development divide through crisis-sensitive planning requires management of different stakeholder expectations, approaches, and agendas.

• Even in crisis situations, it is feasible to develop an evidence-based and relevant ESP.