Keeping Girls in School
Pressures on Education in Sudan Small Causes for Hope
Setting the Scene
Above, our literacy and orphans’ schooling programmes coordinator, Mrs Adila Osman, on a recent visit to our sponsored orphans’ elementary schools. The little girls pictured here have just received their free school uniforms from Women’s Education Partnership.
Watch our pupils celebrating their new uniform!
This video is copyright Women’s Education Partnership.
Our Sponsored Orphans Elementary Schooling Programme enables some of the most disadvantaged children in Khartoum Province not only to go to school but to stay there. As well as uniforms, we provide textbooks, teaching materials, teacher training and teacher incentives for some of the poorest school communities in Khartoum.
Learn more in
Scenes from Our Orphans’ Schooling Programme
From Hardship to Hope Our Orphans Schooling Program
Pressures on Education in Sudan
The Reality in 2022
Approximately 6.9 million girls and boys, one in three school-aged children, do not go to school in Sudan, and a further 12 million will have their school years heavily interrupted by a lack of sufficient teachers, infrastructure, and an enabling learning environment to make them reach their full potential.
“At the age of 10, seven out of ten children are unable to read and understand a simple sentence,” laments Arshad Malik, director of the NGO Save the Children in Sudan. Pupils return to school amid turmoil
The gravity of the educational crisis besetting Sudan is impossible to overstate. Sudan’s ongoing Covid pandemic with its low vaccination uptake and prolonged school closures (see video below), coupled with the economic and political upheavals of recent months, threaten to strip a whole generation of its most fundamental educational rights. The situation has justly been described as a “generational catastrophe“. This tragic situation flows in part from a humanitarian crisis defined by OCHA as unprecedented.
With Sudan’s staple food costs rising 300% in a year and acute food insecurity and poverty hitting 9.5 million Sudanese – a figure feared by many to be an underestimate – ever more children are abandoning school to support their families, often by becoming street sellers like the young boy pictured above. Despite a recent government school meals initiative, many school canteens, with the free meals they provide for pupils, remain closed, leaving many parents unable to afford school meals, yet alone their children’s textbooks, school fees and transport.
“Despite being a teacher and a head of a school at one point in my life, I found out that my son used to miss classes to go and sell tickets at a cinema in Omdurman. When I asked him, he told me that he could not go to school while some essentials are missing in his life. You know they pay us very little, and as teachers we could not feed our children properly.”
Sudan faces “generational catastrophe”
Economic and political instability, growing inter-communal violence, (see too villagers killed in tribal attacks), failed harvests and recent flooding have all contributed to growing fragility in education provision. Six hundred schools alone were damaged in flooding and “militia attacks” this summer, according to governments sources, in a sector where many schools were already in dire need of structural repair and improved drinking water and latrine provision. Classroom overcrowding, shortage of teachers – many have abandoned the profession for better paid employment, together with a lack of teacher training opportunities further imperil teaching quality. Teachers are also considering renewing strike action undertaken earlier this year, to secure long promised backpay and salary increases.
Sudan and its 12.4 million students are the second most vulnerable country in terms of schooling, according to the Risk Education Index. Four out of 10 girls have dropped out of school compared to three out of 10 boys.
“With the exacerbating socio-economic situation, recurring conflicts, and prolonged COVID-19 school closures, once children drop out of school, the chances of girls and boys returning to school are low. Girls are especially vulnerable: evidence suggests that the economic crisis is deepening gender inequalities in Sudan, especially among adolescent girls.” (Unicef Joint Statement). Time and time again, Sudanese educationalists find themselves echoing the observations of a father interviewed by Africa News; “A family is more likely to take their daughters out of school to marry them off or to involve them in domestic chores.”
Photos above, copyright Dreamstime.
Below, our record so far at Women’s Education Partnership
Small Causes for Hope
When the scale of a crisis is as vast as that facing education in Sudan, the only thing we can hold on to is small, continuous, well organized and regular interventions that ensure the communities we support are more able to keep their girls in school. In May, I was lucky enough to visit some of our supported elementary schools in person.
See details of the remarkable work achieved by Sudanese teachers, head teachers and pupils alike in:
Field Visits with Women’s Education Partnership
Above, the women teachers’ staffroom at Jebel Awlia we will help complete.
Since my visit in May, we have received essential government authorization for the building work and resources requested – women’s staff rooms, school repairs, blackboards and teaching materials, and we have succeeded in raising the funds needed. Work will start as soon as weather conditions allow after summer flooding. In the meantime, our Country Director, Neimat, and Adila, our programmes coordinator make sure our sponsored orphan elementary school pupils have everything they need and are happy and flourishing at school. And that includes the little girl below.
This little girl was not registered with those in need when she saw us distributing the uniforms. She just stepped into the office and said “I have no school clothes” . We felt so sad for her. I asked about her father’s work and she said selling seeds (tasali, a snack sold for a few pennies). We noticed she was wearing home clothes. We asked the headmistress and she told us really her family is suffering terribly, “but we can’t cover all those in need.” When we asked her to put on her new uniform, she didn’t know how, so we asked an older girl to help her. We feel like laughing and crying at times like these.
Wearing her new uniform with pride.
Learn more about our work in Women’s Education Partnership.
Below, a moving 3-minute Andariya video report (subtitled in English) on the impact of school closures on girls in Sudan. Sadly, so many of the issues raised here persist today.
One comment on “Keeping Girls in School”
This is wonderful to see the girls clutching their new uniforms. It makes it all worthwhile. You are doing a wonderful job!
Thank you to Adila for the images and thanks to Imogen for making it accessible.