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Opinion: Conducting a successful Census in South Sudan

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Conducting a successful CENSUS in SOUTH SUDAN.

What is CENSUS exactly?

CENSUS is the procedure of Systematically Calculating, Acquiring, and Recording information about the members of a given population of a country. It is widely used in connection with National Population and Housing Census.

WHY CENSUS?

— We all know, in every ten (10) years, the CENSUS gives a complete size of the Nation.
— Conducting Census in South Sudan will allow comparing different groups of people across the country.
— The Census will provide the information that the government needs to develop policies, plan and run public services, and allocate funding.

How will the government;

(A) Develop policies?
♦ Before the Central or Local Government can offer services, policies must be based on High-Quality Evidence, for example;

(I) New Jobs and training policies; investment decisions — Census data showing how many people work in different occupations and industries.

(II) New Housing Policies — Information on housing and its occupants which measure inadequate accommodation and information about the way we live as households e.g in big towns like Juba, Wau, Malakal, Torit, Awiel, Yambio and so on.

(III) Evaluating Equal Opportunities Policies — Ethnic data will help to evaluate equal opportunities policies to identify the extent and nature of disadvantages.

(B) Plan and Run public Services?

♦ We all use public services such as Schools, Health Services, Roads and Bridges. These services need to be planned and in such a way that they keep pace with the fast-changing patterns of modern life.

♦ We need accurate information on the numbers of the people, including the balance of young and old, what job people do, where do they live and in what type of housing for example;

(I) Health and social services — Data on the age and socio-economic make-up of the population; general health, long-term illness and carers.

(II) Roads and public transport; these data also contributed to the understanding of pressures on transport system — Information collected on travel to and from work, and the availability of cars.

(C) Allocate money to local authorities?
♦ An accurate count of the population in each local area will help the government to calculate the size of grants it allocates to each local authority and health authority, for example;

(I) Helping the government to allocate funding to all the concurrent authorities.

What is going to be great challenges when conducting Census in South Sudan?

Given the security and poor infrastructure conditions, here are some of the major problems that will be faced by the South Sudan’s government when it comes to conducting a census includes;

♦ Cost of Conducting Census.

One of the biggest challenges associated with conducting a census in South Sudan is the enormous financial costs of conducting the exercise. It is no secret that it is extremely costly to conduct a census. It is not in South Sudan alone, even in developed nations, the costs involved in conducting censuses can be quite overwhelming.

Considering the current economic meltdown, taking huge amounts of money out of the limited resources to conduct a census can be very challenging. On this basis, it will be important for the government of South Sudan to mobilize the resource and make sure that every South Sudanese living in South Sudan must be counted.

♦ The high Illiteracy Rate in South Sudan will hurt the Conducting of Census.

With large proportions of the populations because being illiterate faces a great challenge during the conducting of censuses. Numerous studies have shown that countries with very high illiteracy rates find it more difficult to undertake an efficient population census than countries with high literacy rates.

For example, in certain remote parts of South Sudan where illiteracy rates are extremely high, many people will tend to run away from census officials when they arrive to count them. As a result of illiteracy, many of these people feel that it is taboo to count human beings.

Sometimes these illiterate members of the population also feel that the government uses counting of people as a strategy to raise the taxes of households. Therefore, they give wrong information to the census officials or run away from their villages when these census officials come to count them. This often translates to inaccurate population figures.

♦ Inadequate Infrastructural Facilities in Certain Areas.

There are certain places where it is challenging to undertake an efficient population census because of poor infrastructural facilities such as bad roads, inaccessible roads, or insufficient roads that connect various towns and villages. There are certain very remote places in South Sudan where the only available medium of transportation is by foot.

In light of this, many census officials can’t reach these very remote and inaccessible places to count the people and therefore make estimations as to the number of people living in such areas. The result is inadequate population figures after the census.

♦ Traditional and Religious Beliefs Can Interfere With the Census Exercise.

In many remote parts of South Sudan where traditional beliefs are the order of the day, census officers face serious challenges when they reach these places and try counting the people.

Most people in such areas deliberately decide not to make themselves available to be counted because of their strong traditional beliefs. Some of these traditional beliefs consider it an abomination to count people while they are still alive.

According to these beliefs, anybody who gets counted exposes themself to suffering from all sorts of ill fortunes, which can range from ailments to even death. Some traditional believers also consider it taboo to let women count men. Therefore, they don’t make themselves available to be counted by the female census officers sent by the government to their villages.

Given these facts, the government need to be aware of the population before the census kick-off.

♦ Corruption Interferes With Census.

Corruption during census-taking can make it difficult to determine accurate population figures. One of the biggest reasons censuses aren’t very successful in a country such as the Old Sudan is the high corruption rate.

Over the years in many countries, there have been countless stories of corrupt census officials collecting monies needed for conducting census but pocketing these monies and sitting in their offices while writing down imaginary population statistics of villages and towns without actually having visited these places.

This automatically leads to inaccurate population data for a country.
Also, in countries where population sizes determine how much money the central government releases to a state or province, corruption can easily overtake the census-taking process and make states exaggerate their population sizes to get a bigger share of funds during the central government’s distribution of funds.

Corruption is one of the biggest reasons certain countries find it very difficult to conduct successful censuses and obtain reliable population data. In this case, the government (especially the legislators) of South Sudan will need to enact a law that criminalizes corruption during the counting process or inform the community leaders and the census officials, in particular, to adhere to a precise model of counting and criminalized corruption during the census operation.

♦ Insufficient Census Experts.

Another problem will associate with conducting censuses in South Sudan will be the insufficient number of professionals with the knowledge and experience of conducting a census. Moreover, the government of South Sudan don’t have sufficient experienced census officers, demographers, and population experts to effectively handle the task of conducting a population census.

As a result of this, South Sudan will end up using inexperienced census officers to do the job. The result of using people who are not experts to conduct an important exercise like the census is an efficient census that provides inaccurate population figures.

Tackling this, we need to call on the government of South Sudan to train a few statisticians, demographers or contract population experts from other countries to help in counting every South Sudanese before the elections.

♦ Insufficient and Ineffective Census Educational Campaign.

How effective an educational campaign on the census is before the census takes place determines how successful the census exercise eventually becomes. Many times, any country cannot get accurate population figures through population censuses simply because intensive and effective educational campaigns on the importance of the census to the nation weren’t done before the census exercises.

When people become aware of the importance of population census, they are encouraged to make themselves available to be counted and cooperate with census officers to ensure a smooth census exercise that provides accurate population figures for the country.

♦ Poor Demographic Maps.

Because of demographic maps that aren’t reliable, it becomes very difficult for the authorities to know all the remote areas (especially the very remote areas) and conduct the census exercise. The problem with unreliable or poor demographic maps is that it results in some extremely remote villages not appearing on the maps.

Such areas, therefore, end up not being visited by census officials.
Hence, the government needs to communicate with the networking companies through National Communication Authority, NCA to make sure that internet service is enhanced and developed fast Global Position System, GPS tracking of all remote areas countrywide. This will help Census Officials to relocate the human existence in the forestry villages.

Prepared by: Senator Clement Bey
LLB, Zagazig University Egypt
Political Analyst and Election researcher, South Sudan.

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