The History of South Sudan

The Republic of South Sudan became the world's 195th country in July 2011, when, through an impassioned referendum, the region's long-persecuted population voted in favor of independence from greater Sudan. The historical decision was preceded by decades of civil war and one of the most devastating humanitarian crises in history, and marked a major turning point for the people of the region. 

While the civil conflicts between the two Sudans are often understood through their historical roots — centuries of exploitation and slave-raiding by the "Arab" north against the "African" south, followed by Britain and Egypt's imperialist intervention and so on — it is impossible to explain the conflicts in simple terms. While religion, race, economic exploitation, and colonialism are all major elements in the crisis, none of these factors fully explains the circumstances that gave birth to the world's newest nation, nor to the ongoing conflicts in the Sudans.

The civil war in Sudan killed two and a half million people and displaced nearly six million South Sudanese between 1983 and 2005. The infrastructure in South Sudan was completely devastated leaving the citizens of the newly independent country to rebuild all of the education, agriculture and community systems. Although South Sudan has accomplished much in the years since independence, widespread poverty, inter-ethnic clashes and conflict with Sudan remain chronic issues. Despite these great challenges, the people of South Sudan remain committed to better education for their children and a brighter future for their country. The VAD Foundation is dedicated to helping realize these goals.

Since December 2013, South Sudan has faced a new civil conflict. The unrest has limited citizens’ access to basic services and resources, displacing millions and making communities vulnerable to food shortages, disease, and violence. 

With the ongoing conflict, unprecedented numbers of new students showed up on enrollment day in January 2015. Rather than turn those students away to face uncertain futures, Marial Bai Secondary School more than doubled student enrollment. By accepting more students, from a wide range of states and ethnic backgrounds, VAD Foundation and The Marial Bai Secondary School reduced the students' risk of recruitment into the military conflict and of facing hunger and displacement issues. 

South Sudan continues to face significant challenges. But even in these dire times, young people go to extraordinary lengths to be educated. The Marial Bai Secondary School is a beacon of hope in a troubled region. They, and we, see education as the only path out of the relentless cycle of civil war.


We must not underestimate South Sudan’s remarkable potential: its resilient and talented people, abundant natural resources, huge areas of arable land, and the Great Nile running through it. With these assets, South Sudan could grow into a prosperous, productive nation capable of meeting the needs of its people.
— –U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, 2011

Facts About South Sudan

  • South Sudan gained independence on July 9th, 2011.
  • It is divided into three regions, Bhar el Ghazal, Equatoria, and Greater Upper Nile and ten states within those regions.
  • The population is approximately 11 million people, predominately living in rural subsistence farming communities.
  • South Sudan has the third largest oil reserves in Sub-Saharan Africa and is rich with other natural resources like copper, iron ore, and arable land for agriculture.
  • Only 27% of the population can read and write in the national language, English.

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