South Sudan seeks to make education accessible for girls and women by 2040 in an effort to reduce gender inequality in education, the education minister said Monday.

Minister of General Education and Instruction Deng Deng Hoc said his ministry is pushing for implementation of a policy that calls for allocating national budget to education, training more teachers and enriching programs that empower women and girls before expiration of the 2040 blueprint that aims to build an informed, educated and innovative nation.

“We know we have more girls and women than men in this country, so it makes an economic sense that we promote gender equality in education,” Hoc said in Juba during the country’s annual education review conference.

The conference convenes educationists to discuss achievements and failures of the education sector during the past 12 months.

South Sudan has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world as only 15 percent of women and 40 percent of men in the country’s 8-million population are able to read or write, according to a 2008 census.

Hoc said the country has made significant progress in advancing girls’ education as the number of girls in primary schools has increased to nearly 1 million in 2015 compared to less than a quarter of a million in 2006.

He said the country has also increased the quality of education by increasing the number of teachers in the country from 19, 000 in 2006 to 37,000 in 2015, and the government-led Girls Education South Sudan initiative is now supporting 130,000 school girls in South Sudan.

He however said the outbreak of conflict in December 2013 has hampered government’s progress in building schools and allocating resources for education — only 3 percent of the country’s 2015/2016 budget is allocated for education.

Tizie Maphalala, an education specialist with UN children’s agency (UNICEF), called on the South Sudanese government to uphold its constitutional mandate of giving 10 percent of fiscal allocation to education to improve the quality of education and also return 1.8 million out-of-school children back to the classroom.

A report by UNICEF released in September said South Sudan is the second country in the world after Liberia with the highest proportion of out-of-school children.

The report adds that 1.8 million children are missing out on their right to a primary education and 1 in every 3 schools are closed due to conflict.