“Be to the orphan like a merciful father and you will reap what you sow.” Islamic saying urging compassion and care for orphans. Above some of the young girls whose schooling we fund.
Mother of Orphans / sewing clothes for her children / with scraps from work,/ from the tailoring factory. / Wishing her husband had not died/ and was still with her, and her children. / There are no guarantees in this life./
Extract from Um Yatama, Mother of Orphans, by the late poet and literary icon, Mahjoub Sherif.
Our Orphans Elementary Schooling Program – From Hardship to Hope
Our Story “Do Not Teach Crying to an Orphan” – Why Our Work is So Important
We identify orphan children most in need, fund their elementary school fees, school books and uniforms. We also pay desperately low-paid teaching staff’s salaries and incentives and supply school benches and teaching aids where needed.
All photographs in this blogpost are copyright Imogen Thurbon and can only be reproduced with written permission.
“Between her workplace and her home/ struggling on her way,/ sweating in the heat /the Mother of Orphans is weeping./ When she counts what she earns/ she feels overwhelmed,/ drowning in a sea of troubles.” Um Yatama by Mahjoub Sherif
Our orphans program started in 2002 as a response to the growing HIV crisis among the communities where we were establishing our women’s literacy circles at the time. These communities were all based in IDP camps or irregular settlements and were and still are extremely poor.
See At a Glance to learn more about our literacy participants.
We targeted girls and occasionally boys whose parent, parents or guardians had died of AIDS or who suffered from AIDS and were too unwell to work. We also included guardians who, struggling to support their own children, lacked the means to pay for their orphans’ schooling. Together with the Babekir Badri Scientific Association, local education committees and guardians, we worked with schools set up by community leaders of the camps themselves. These self-help schools are an enduring testimony to the initiative and commitment to education of communities still desperately short of resources. One school I visited three years ago, sweltering under the relentless heat of a Sudanese summer, had no running water, was short of school benches and was in urgent need of repair.
Above, youngsters in one of the schools we support with their dedicated and dynamic headmistress.
By the late 2000s, we had paid the school fees of 150 orphans in more than seventy schools in and around Khartoum. Over the years, as the camps evolved into settled communities, we extended our program to all the local orphans in need that we could fund.
From 2002 to 2019 we supported 3,000 pupils in 25 schools
The World Bank estimates primary school enrollment at only 46%. Uptake by girls stands at 66% versus 71.7% for boys. Poor families are often forced to restrict educational opportunities to just one child; traditionally the boy. Early marriage is correlated with young girls never attending or abandoning school.
See Child Marriage to learn more.
In 2019, we supported 200 elementary pupils in 10 schools in Khartoum
From hardship to hope.
Girl orphans from rural areas are among the most educationally. disadvantaged in Sudan. Some of the poorest girls in the communities we serve will be able to complete their elementary education and face the future with greater choices and opportunities.
Orphans are a fifth less likely to attend school than non orphan children in Sudan and girl orphans less likely than boys to attend school.
Do Not Teach Crying to an Orphan – Why Our Work is So Important
“Do not teach crying to an orphan.” Arabic proverb.
The odds of Sudanese girls from poor families completing their schooling are tragically stacked against them but the orphans we support are doubly disadvantaged. They come from ethnic groups battling societal and economic disadvantage in Khartoum, their families having fled conflict and hardship in their homelands of Darfur and the Nuba Mountains. Living in communities lacking water, electricity, schools, and basic health care. they struggle to overcome the loss of one or both parents and the enduring economic and psychological scars that brings. Their future life opportunities are profoundly undermined.
In those communities where violence and drug abuse are prevalent, where there is no chance of schooling and home support is lacking, they can fall prey to criminal activity and are more vulnerable to early marriage and child labour. Households headed by orphan children face countless economic and psychological pressures which rob these children of their childhood.
While becoming a guardian or carer of orphans is believed to bring special blessings in Sudanese Islamic culture, the complexities of how to interpret Islamic jurisprudence on the issue of guardianship (there is no adoption in the sense of full absorption into the adoptive family) often mean that Sudanese are reluctant to take on guardianship or believe that it forbidden. Attitudes are changing though:
Children in Jebel Awlia, watching our literacy circle graduation celebrations.
Our orphans program enables some of the poorest girls in the communities we serve to complete their elementary education and have the chance to go on to primary and secondary school. We meet them regularly to make sure they are happy and flourishing in school as well as getting monthly feedback from their teachers, school committee members and guardians.
Our orphans and women’s literacy programs are two interweaving threads of our work aiming to break intergenerational cycles of education disadvantage among women. Until lockdown is eased and schools reopen, we are making sure that our orphans and literacy participants are well, protected and ready to resume their education as soon as it is safe to do so.
Over the coming year, we hope to extend our work to 300 girls most in need of support to attend elementary schools in Umbadda, Wad Bashir, Hajj Jusif and Jebal Aulia.
More news on our orphans program in coming blogposts.
This is a literacy post for Women’s Education Partnership. See At a Glance for more on our mission and impact. See On the Front Line Coronavirus Prevention and Coronavirus – Our Prevention Work for our Covid-19 prevention outreach work.
To learn more on the impact of Covid-19 on women and girls, see Coronavirus Sudan Stepping Back from the Abyss 4 The Impact on Women
Please consider giving to our life-changing orphans and women’s literacy work. It is never more needed than now. Just click on the link below to donate quickly and securely: