By Jonathan Coxall

Africa Educational Trust (AET) is partnering with Lifeline Energy to deliver Speak Up, a radio-based English language course for youth and adults in 130 rural communities in South Sudan. I’ve been working for AET for the past two years as the Programme Coordinator for South Sudan based in our London Headquarters. In June 2017, I was fortunate enough to travel to Nzara, near the Ugandan border in Western Equatoria state.  My purpose was to meet some of the newly enrolled Speak Up students and teachers who were receiving training on using the Lifeplayer MP3.

Speak Up was developed in response to the South Sudan’s alarming rate of illiteracy, which is one of the highest globally, at 77% of adults (84% female). Speak Up is a six-month radio-based English language course that uses a combination of radio-based instruction, face-to-face teaching and written learning and teaching materials. The Speak Up lessons were developed in consultation with the target communities. It explores cross-cutting/locally-relevant issues, like health, HIV/AIDS, human rights and environment, to enable people to make more informed decisions about their lives, understand their rights and protect their environment. Currently 3,144 students (63% female) attend the Speak Up classes across three states in South Sudan.

Meeting the Students

Upon arriving in Nzara Town I was greeted by a group of 20 newly enrolled Speak Up students. In small groups we discussed their educational background, motivations for joining the course and expectations of Speak Up. They shared stories of empowerment, like Angelina, whose father never let her attend school. However, because of Speak Up she’s developing her basic literacy skills.

They also shared insights into how Speak Up suits their lifestyles. Priscilla always had to look after her siblings rather than attend school. Speak Up takes place in evenings, so she has the time to fulfil her household and livelihood responsibilities during the day.

Most of the students shared shocking insights into how the on-going conflict has disrupted their education. Sampson’s parents were killed during the fighting that broke out in 2013. He was forced to move in with his uncle who could not afford to send him to school. More information on Angelina, Pricilla and Sampson’s stories can be seen here – https://africaeducationaltrust.org/impact-of-bbc-radio-4-appeal/