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Can Participatory Action for School Improvement (PASI) overcome the challenges that schools in South Sudan face today?

This blog explores the educational challenges that South Sudan has been facing since its independence on July 2011. It interduces the Participatory Action for School Improvement (PASI) project as an instrument to tackle some of these challenges, especially creating programs for peace, security and development. According to USAID,“South Sudan has the world’s highest proportion of out-of-school children”. (USAID. 2018), therefore, I believe implementing (PASI) is South Sudan is relevant and promising.

In a country like South Sudan, which is one of the poorest countries in the world and has fragile communities, (PASI) project might be the right approach to expand children’s access to primary education and to improve learning outcomes. According to Kendall, N., Kaunda, Z., & Friedson-Rideneur, S. (2015 P. 68) “The roots of participatory educational development” are a fruit of Paulo Freire work, whom theory and practice outlined “participation not as a tool of development, but rather as a fundamental condition of humanity”.

1-    What is Participatory Action for School Improvement (PASI)

In her study about PASI project in Malawi, Kendall et al define (PASI) as “bottom-up” project, a people-centered practice, and a common responsibility between local communities and International Development Organization(IDO) for the learning outcome. In this partnership, the (IDO) outside donors and the local communities form Stakeholder partnership and decide to work together toward school improvement by defining their own roles in this process. The outsider donors articulate their values such as gender equality and empowering marginalized children. After the two parties agree on their expectations and their roles as partners within PASI, the community would have control over the processes of “planning, implementation, evaluation, and formulation and of all funding” (Kendall, N. ,Kaunda, Z., & Friedson-Rideneur, S. 2015 p.71). The outside donors would assess the fund “monitor progress and evaluate the impact/ outcome on the basis of the goals and objectives set earlier through the participatory methods”. The “PASI” project was implemented in Malawi, in five schools, four of them were in rural areas. Despite the short duration of the project, which was three years long, the locals and the IDO saw it as a big success in improving schools and learning outcome. The teachers’ performance improved and the students’ attendance was increased. “In the third term of the year, the school was rated second in the grade eight final national examinations. 12 girls and 12 boys were selected to Community Day Secondary school”.  (Kendall, N., Kaunda, Z., & Friedson-Rideneur, S. 2015 p.73). The (PASI) project was a great success, as Robert Chamber, stated “New professionals who put the last first already exist; the hard question is how they can multiply” ( 1983).

2- The Challenges that faces Education in South Sudan

Wars and instability has impacted the educational system in addition to some other social problems. The USAID and many international Development organizations (IDOs) are offering numerous top-down approach programs to help South Sudan government in designing education plans, creating policies, financing of infrastructure projects. However, there is still a lot of work to be done in order to increase access to basic education, support children in the war zone psychosocially, provide temporary school to the local communities in the rural areas, address the issues of out-of-school children, and finally empower women and girls to promote their roles in peace and economic development.

I believe, Participatory Action For school Improvement (PASI), as a bottom-up approach can play a crucial role in addressing some of these challenges especially in rural areas where poverty is rampant and the gender gap is wide, due to the following factors:

First; The South Sudan government failed to address the basic needs of the South Sudanese people especially in the rural areas, given the instability caused by the civil war following independence in 2011. However, the (PASI) the International development organizations (IDO) gave  people in local Communities power to explore their needs, plan the learning process, manage schools’ budget, and evaluate the learning outcome. The stockholders in these communities including, parents, students, teachers and head teachers all have a voice in this process. As stated by Kendall, there is even a shift in power within these communities that fevered the marginalized groups. (Kendall. 2015)

Second; The Enough project on South Sudan called for opportunities being given to ordinary people to make their voice heard and their ideas expressed in the peace process and other infrastructural services. The proven success in Malawi leads us to believe that(PASI) project in South Sudan will achieve the aspired goals. According to Enough Project on South Sudan “Sentry investigations and other reporting, all vital economic sectors are not serving the needs of South Sudanese people at current time because the profits they generate have been hijacked and the sectors have become totally corrupted” (Brian Adeba, Brad Brooks-Rubin, John Prendergast, and Jon Temin September 2017).

Most South Sudanese people lost confidence in the elite because of their love of power as a tool to serve themselves through corruption. The elite always justify this corruption by saying that they want the money for serving their local communities. They corrupt local leaders in local communities considering the fact that usually, these communities are undemocratic and thus  patronage is the prevailing system. As noted by Brian Adeba, Brad Brooks-Rubin, John Prendergast, and Jon Temin (2017), it is especially difficult for services to reach the people of South Sudan because

Based on the  (PASI) approach, usually the genuine member in communities emerge as leaders of this process because budgetary issues were controlled by the (IDO). additionally, the beneficiary of the empowerment of marginalized children and girls who took advantages of the gender equity will arise as the new leadership of these communities. This will have a huge impact in “the power shift and balance between the ‘elite’ and the ‘people’”.  The (PASI) project can be an effective approach to change the dynamics on the ground. The (PASI) project might be a bold attempt in supporting South Sudanese demands for peace, national identity, and national unity.

Third; According to, Education Cluster Assessment 2017, South Sudan teachers are not interested in remaining in this profession due to “insufficient, delayed and unpaid salaries”. (UNICEF, South Sudan 2016). The (PASI) case in Malawi had a positive impact on People involved directly in schools in those local communities. Voluntarily, the locals were responding to teachers’ need like helping them building their houses, this service improved teachers’ performance, which reflects positively on students’ attendance.  In South Sudan especially in rural areas teachers facing the same dilemma, therefore The (PASI) project can help in South Sudan in this regard.

3- Challenges in implementing (PASI) in South Sudan?

There are three main potential challenges that may face the implementation of (PASI) approach in South Sudan, these challenges are related to;

A    Budget: The fund from (IDO) is in decline since the war started again in 2013, and there is a lot of international pressure organization including Enough Project, call for using money as leverage to push for peace in South Sudan. This may complicate the implementation of (PASI) in South Sudan. Also, there is always a concern about how the local communities’ leaders manage and prioritize their schools’ needs

B       Shift in power within the communities: According to, Kendall, (Kendall. 2015) In (PASI) project there is always a shift in power within the local communities, this matter will lead to resistant form some corrupted elites against this project.

C    Shift in power between some IDO and the communities: The South Sudan education has been run mostly by different outsider parties who promote different religious and political agendas using a curriculum that services them to manipulate the local communities. These outsider parties represent the most threatening challenge to (PASI) project. They will never except that the power shift to benefit the locals’ communities. They will question the ability of the locals to run schools and the duration and sustainability of the project.

After a new peace agreement was signed in Khartoum Sudan, recently South Sudan is witnessing a new dawn. It might be  worthwhile for the (IDO) to interduce and teach PASI project to community leaders in South Sudan,  to sustain peace and to improve education.


Barnaba, B. J. E. (2015). Examining the Contemporary Status of an Education System: The Case of the Republic of South Sudan.

Chamber, R. (1983). Rural development put the last first. ( p. 168)

Kendall, N., Kaunda, Z., & Friedson-Rideneur, S. (2015). Community participation in international development education quality improvement efforts: current paradoxes and opportunities. Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability, 27(1), 65–83.

USAID. (2018). Country Profile South Sudan. USAID.

A Path Forward. Quality Education for Sustainable Peace.

“Sudan: Using Radio to Broadcast Interactive Student Lessons”- Karl Grobl/Education Development Center Inc.

“In a country like South Sudan, where civil war has destroyed educational opportunities for generations, the presence of functioning schools, teachers and books has the potential to demonstrate that peace is delivering. Education, more than any other sector, has the “potential to deliver an early, large, and highly visible peace dividend”. (Brown, 2011).

As a fragile state, a strong education infrastructure can help promote the peace and stability South Sudan needs in order to firmly establish itself as a nation. As a young nation, and a nation full of young people, South Sudan must commit to building a quality education infrastructure that is both stable and relevant to its youth. Education has the potential to help stabilize the country, bring about peace, and ensure the future of the nation. (Keep in mind that nearly 70% of the country’s over 12 million people is under the age of 30) (Barnaba, 2015).

But for education to work as a peacebuilding tool, it is important for South Sudan to invest in a quality, stable and relevant education infrastructure. There is a large difference between access to education and access to quality education. Being in school is not the same as learning. This is a difference that has been recognized by the international community and is encapsulated in the fourth global goal for sustainable development which includes targets such “Education for sustainable development and global citizenship”, and “Build and upgrade inclusive and safe schools”. (For more information on quality education, especially how “quality” is defined in a development context, check out the World Economic Forum’s blog on “What makes quality education?” and the World Bank’s “The Six A’s of Quality Education”.)

Though the benefits of quality education are now being recognized, implementing policies to achieve desired peace and economic outcomes is difficult. In order to build a strong education infrastructure, South Sudan and any international partners the government chooses to engage with must acknowledge the importance of understanding the historical influences and impacts of conflict on South Sudan’s education policies. In this regard, the Ministry of General Education and Instruction’s (MoGEI) is taking the right steps to ensure that it does not make the same mistakes as in the past. Its updated Strategic Education Plan for 2017-2022, aims to recognize how history and conflict have affected education in South Sudan with hopes that by recognizing and understanding its past, the government will be better situated to craft policy that will lead to sustainable peace and change. (UNESCO, 2018).

Ensuring its citizens have access to quality education will help South Sudan grow as a country. It will provide its citizens the opportunity to learn skills and trade to engage at a higher civic and economic level. Focusing on just building schools is not enough to guarantee positive outcomes. As a report for the World Bank puts it: “expanding school attainment has not necessarily guaranteed better economic conditions […] cognitive skills of the population, rather than mere school enrollment, are powerfully related to individual earnings, to the distribution of income, and to economic growth” (Hanushek & Wößmann, 2007).

To this end, I believe it’s also very important to engage the citizens of South Sudan in order to build a sustainable model of education that is both stable and relevant to the youth. Any initiative moving forward must take into consideration the needs of the people and engage them to take ownership of their own education. In this regard, South Sudan has unlimited potential as education is a huge priority for families.

“Parents and young people are striving to overturn a legacy of illiteracy, restricted opportunity, and poor-quality schooling”. (Brown, 2011).


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