South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, is slowly trying to rebuild after years of conflict.
South Sudan has the lowest literacy rate of any country worldwide. Only 27 percent of the adult population can read and write.
To fight the problem, officials have launched thousands of adult education classes across the country.
In one class, 47-year-old Rebecca Nyankiir Deng is studying with her 17-year-old daughter. Deng has been illiterate for most of her life. So, her daughter is helping her learn to read and write English.
“My mother has now learned a lot of English words, such as greetings. And, that makes me happy,” the daughter said. “If I come home early, I help my mom to do her homework.”
When Deng was a child, civil war in what is now South Sudan prevented her from going to school.
Today she earns money by making and selling jewelry. But the amount Deng earns is so little that she struggles to buy food and pay for her daughter’s schooling.
Now the teenager is getting an education along with her mother.
“We are studying here because they are teaching us for free,” she said. “If I had to pay for school, I wouldn’t be here.”
Deng is one of a growing number of South Sudanese adults who see the current peace as a chance to get an education. Many are hoping for better jobs in the future.
Deng Deng Hoc Yai is South Sudan’s education minister. He says adult literacy is a main concern because it helps pull people out of poverty and prevents conflict.
“At the individual level, at the level of a community, at the level of a country, with communities that have a lot of educated people, they will all be working, they will all be enjoying better health. They will be more peaceful compared to people who are illiterate.”
The Education Ministry told VOA that a little more than 208,000 South Sudanese adults are now taking classes on how to read and write.
As long as the current peace in South Sudan holds, officials expect those numbers will continue to grow.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Sheila Ponnie reported this story for VOA News. Jonathan Evans adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.