It took years of pleading before Jane Aketch, one of five daughters, persuaded her parents to send her to primary school in the dusty bush of South Sudan. Although her parents wanted her to learn how to read and write, like most of the communities in Aketch’s home county they did not place particular importance in furthering a girl’s education. Generally, in South Sudan, girls are supposed to stay at home and clean, while boys attend school, explained the 14-year-old. Her sisters all dropped out of school before completing their primary education. ”My parents didn’t approve of us going,” she said.
South Sudanese parents keep their daughters away from school for many reasons. Sometimes, they are reluctant to send girls to mixed-gender schools. More often, a girl is considered a source of wealth to her family for the dowry she brings upon marriage, and so is married off at a young age. In some communities, an educated woman who carries a pen rather than a bundle of firewood is considered a disgrace and by virtue of her education may attract a lower dowry. Other major obstacles girls face in gaining an education include sexual harassment and early pregnancy. Rosemary Ajith recalled:
I was married off at a very tender age. My parents were given so many cows by my husband. Up to now, my younger sisters are not allowed to attend school.They are often told to follow my example.