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South Sudan ready for peace talks with
rebel leader Machar: spokesman

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudanese President Salva Kiir is ready for peace talks with his longtime political rival and rebel leader Riek Machar, a presidential spokesman said on Monday.

Kiir’s spokesman, Ateny Wek Ateny, told Xinhua by phone that the South Sudanese leader has accepted the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) proposal for face-to-face talks with the former first deputy president.

“President Kiir has agreed to meet Machar as proposed by the IGAD Council of Ministers because he is committed to peace. I can not speculate what they are going to discuss in the meeting now,” Ateny said.

Last week, the East African regional bloc, IGAD, which is mediating efforts to revive South Sudan’s stalled 2015 peace deal, recommended President Kiir meet Machar before the next African Union (AU) summit slated for July in Mauritania.

The meeting was called for after the several warring parties in South Sudan last month failed to agree during the second round of the High Level Revitalization Forum held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“The president is ready to meet with Machar anytime, anywhere,” Ateny added. He said the president is only waiting from IGAD the venue to be named.

This comes after the regional ministers set June 30 as the deadline for face-to-face talks between Kiir and the exiled rebel leader to resolve the conflict.

If it takes place, the face-to-face talks will be the first meeting between the warring South Sudanese leaders since Machar fled Juba in July 2016 following renewed violence. Machar is reportedly under house arrest in South Africa.

South Sudan descended into civil war in late 20013, and the conflict has created one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world.  The UN estimates that about 4 million South Sudanese have been displaced internally and externally.

A peace deal signed in August 2015 between the rival leaders under UN pressures led to the establishment of a transitional unity government, but was shattered by renewed fighting in July 2016.



South Sudan enrolls 1.5 million children in school in 2018 despite conflict: survey

JUBA South Sudan ( Xinhua) -- At least 1.5 million South Sudanese children have enrolled in school in 2018 despite the ongoing civil war that has displaced more than four million people, data released by the country’s education ministry on Monday shows.

According to statistics from the School Attendance Monitoring System, an online education monitoring platform, school enrollment this year reached a record breaking 1.5 million in May, up from less than one million in 2013.

Michael Lopuke Lotyam, undersecretary at the Ministry of General Education, attributed the improvement in school enrollment to introduction of school meals, cash incentives for school going girls and teachers, strengthened partnership with aid organizations in the education sector and improved security.

Lotyam added that enrollment for female student across the East African country increased from 39 percent in 2014 to 45 percent this year.

“Based on an analysis of enrollment patterns and number of admission registers and school budgets received, it is now expected that academic year 2018 enrollment will reach 1.7 million pupils, reporting from 3,800 schools across the country,” Lotyam told a news conference on Monday.

According to the UN, South Sudan’s education indicators remain among the worst in the world, with 73 percent of the country’s population of an estimated 12 million people illiterate and 2.2 million children out of school.

Another 19,000 children are estimated to be in the hands of armed groups in South Sudan, according to the UN Children’s’ agency UNICEF. The country’s education crisis is blamed on protracted conflicts and under-funding by the state.

Despite the little gains, Lotyam warned that the number of out-of-school children in South Sudan could rise to 2.5 million in the next two years if the ongoing conflict does not stop.

“The number of out-of-school children has increased by almost 500,000 children since 2014 and if this trend continues, in the next two years, we are going to see more than 2.5 million children will be out of school and this is because of the ongoing crisis in the country,” said Lotyam.


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