Education in South Sudan

The natives of South Sudan use different languages which can be broadly divided into three; Eastern Sudanic languages, Central Sudanic languages, and Ubangian languages.


Indigenous languages

There are over 60 indigenous languages spoken in South Sudan. Most of the indigenous languages are classified under the Nilo-Saharan language family; collectively, they represent two of the first order divisions of Nilo-Saharan (Eastern Sudanic and Central Sudanic). The remainder belongs to the Ubangi languages of the Niger-Congo language family, and they are spoken in the southwest. The most recent available population statistics for many South Sudan indigenous languages go back to the 1980s.

Since then, the war of independence led to many civilian deaths and massive displacements of refugees to Sudan and beyond. Due to the drawing of colonial borders Africa by the European invaders in the 19th and 20th centuries, some South Sudan indigenous languages are spoken in neighboring countries such as Uganda, Congo and Central African Republic. Also, and some of these languages have even more speakers in the neighboring countries forexample the Zande language has twice as many speakers in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo, while the Banda group of languages may have more speakers in the Central African Republic than in South Sudan.

In South Sudan, the languages with the most speakers are Nuer with 740,000 speakers in 1982 and the Dinka sociolinguistic language or dialect continuum with perhaps 1.4 million in 1986; these two groups of languages are also closely related to one another. Bari had 420,000 in 2000, and Zande had 350,000 in 1982. Of the Ubangi languages, available figures indicate that Zande is the only one with a substantial number of speakers in South Sudan.

Non indigenous languages

In the state of Western Bahr Al Ghazel, in its border region with the neighboring country of Sudan, there is an indeterminate number of Baggara Arabs—a traditionally nomadic people—that resides either seasonally or permanently. Their language is Chadian Arabic and their traditional territories are in the southern portions of the Sudanese regions of Kordofan and Darfur. In the capital, Juba, there are several thousand people who use an Arabic pidgin, Juba Arabic. Since South Sudan was long a part of Sudan for a century, some South Sudanese are conversant in either Sudanese Arabic or Modern Standard Arabic, the latter being the native spoken language of Arabs and Arabized peoples in Sudan.

The official language of South Sudan is English. South Sudan's ambassador to Kenya said on 2 August 2011 that Swahili will be introduced in South Sudan with the goal of supplanting Arabic as a lingua franca, in keeping with the country's intention of orientation toward the East African Community rather than Sudan and the Arab League.

A group of South Sudanese refugees, who were raised in Cuba during the Sudanese wars, numbering about 600, also speak fluent Spanish. They have been named the Cubanos, and most had settled in Juba by the time of the country's independence.