Photo by Sara Hylton

Students study at a learning space for displaced children from the North of the country on the outskirts of Juba. Each day presents a hurdle for many female students, like seeing their friends drop out or get married off, and fighting off hunger throughout the day. “My head is paining and sometimes I vomit” explained Amijong Garang, 14.

Girls Education in South Sudan

Published December 12, 2017
Photos & Words by Sara Hylton, 2017 Flash Forward Winner

This series documents displaced girls in South Sudan who are seeking an education and fighting for their futures in one of the world's most volatile countries

Because of fierce fighting in her village in Unity state, it took Susan, 18, over a year to begin school again in Juba. Many girls have witnessed or experienced violence. For those who manage to attend, they often travel for hours to reach school. But each day may present a new hurdle, like seeing their friends drop out or get married off, and fighting off hunger throughout the day. “My head is paining and sometimes I vomit” explained Amijong Garang, 14.


  • Photo by Sara Hylton

    Books and papers lay out to dry in an empty classroom at Lighthouse International, a private school in Juba that is temporarily closed due to flooding. It is estimated that one in three schools throughout the country has been destroyed, occupied, or closed making schools even more inaccessible.

  • Photo by Sara Hylton

    Viola and Susan, both 18, and 16-year-old Diana are mechanical engineering students at Juba Technical School. "We feel very proud as women," they say as they describe their experience of being female students in a classroom dominated by males.

  • Photo by Sara Hylton

    Melanie, 14, sings as part of a choir for vulnerable girls. Melanie first came to Juba from Terekeka with her mother when she was 7 to sell brooms, but her mother resorted to negative means to make an income, including sex work. Melanie was found by a local orphanage where she now lives with her three brothers and sisters. When she grows up she wants to be a photographer and care for her siblings. “I’m here to study and get a bright future” she says.

How can photography makes us care about the challenges that others face in such a way that it compels us to act?

The United Nations estimates that 2.3 million people have been displaced since December 2013, and 47 percent of those displaced are school-aged children. An entire generation is at risk with nearly one in three schools closed, destroyed or turned into barracks. Girls in South Sudan are doubly vulnerable, with many being forced into early marriage and susceptible to sexual abuse and exploitation. An adolescent girl in South Sudan is three times more likely to die in childbirth than to complete primary school.

Despite the barriers placed on them, girls like Susan and Amijong continue to chase their dreams.

Sara Hylton

Sara Hylton is a Canadian documentary photographer based between Brooklyn, New York and New Delhi, India.

Sara completed a post-graduate certificate in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography from the International Center of Photography and also holds a Master of Arts in International Conflict Studies from Kings College London.

Sara has worked for the New York Times, the LA Times, Al Jazeera, Smithsonian Magazine, Slate, Bloomberg News, the Financial Times Magazine, Reuters, Roads & Kingdoms, and The Guardian, among others. Sara has also worked with several non-profit organizations including the United Nations, the Gates Foundation, the Danish Refugee Council, Doctors Without Borders, the International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps, and the Rainforest Alliance among others.