Forced to flee due to the conflict in Sudan’s capital, Sarah al-Sharif, a 19-year-old information technology student, had to abandon her books and computer.
Currently residing in Sennar, located 30km (18 miles) southeast of Khartoum, Sarah al-Sharif faces the challenge of an unstable internet connection and the absence of a passport for international travel. Like numerous others, she is unable to pursue her studies amid the ongoing conflict between opposing military groups.
Since its commencement in mid-April, the conflict has thrown Sudan’s already fragile education system into disarray. Many schools have been forced to close or adapt to accommodate displaced individuals, leading to the cancellation of a majority of the country’s national year-end exams.
19-year-old said she feels this war has effectively put an end to education in Sudan, and the situation has shifted from bad to nearly impossible.
The conflict has transformed the streets of Khartoum into daily battlegrounds, sparked a resurgence of ethnically-focused assaults in Darfur, and forced over 4 million individuals to flee within Sudan and beyond its borders.
Simone Vis from UNICEF in Sudan has raised concerns about the disturbing number of reports indicating the enlistment of both boys and girls by armed factions.
United Nations data indicates that 89 schools in seven states are currently serving as shelters for the displaced, sparking concerns over potential lack of educational access for children in the upcoming academic year, and heightened risks of child labor and abuse.
In response to the ongoing conflict, the education minister announced the cancellation of the majority of end-of-year school exams in regions impacted by the war on Wednesday.
In the present situation, it’s clear to everyone that starting a new academic year is simply impossible, stated Sahar Abdullah, a displaced teacher from Khartoum who is also seeking refuge in Sennar.
Even prior to the conflict between Sudan’s army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Save The Children had already ranked Sudan as one of the top four countries globally where education was in extreme jeopardy.
The tally of children not attending school has now escalated to 9 million, up from 6.9 million. Additionally, over one million school-aged children have been displaced, and a minimum of 10,400 schools have been shut down since the commencement of the conflict, as affirmed by the charity.
Despite Khartoum’s rich intellectual heritage, the education system had suffered due to inadequate investment, political meddling, and a severe economic downturn.
This situation was further exacerbated by street demonstrations both before and after the removal of former leader Omar al-Bashir in 2019, as well as the unusually severe floods in 2020 and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Owing to overcrowded classrooms, students would sometimes bring their own chairs to class. There was a shortage of textbooks, making it difficult for teachers to effectively educate, explained Abdullah, the teacher displaced by the conflict.
Prior to the outbreak of the conflict, state-employed teachers held a three-month strike to protest pay and working conditions. A senior member of the Sudanese Teachers’ Committee revealed that as many as 300,000 teachers have not received their salaries since March.
Only Hope Survives
Amid the recent disruptions, Rabab Nasreldeen had progressed to her third year of law studies at the University of Khartoum before the outbreak of the war.
Subsequently, she had to escape, leaving behind her educational certificates and documents that could have enabled her to pursue her studies elsewhere.
“Our only recourse is to wait and remain hopeful,” she remarked.
Humanitarian workers are striving to mitigate the crisis by establishing secure learning environments and offering children psychosocial assistance.
Education Cannot Wait, the UN’s global fund devoted to education during emergencies, has garnered $12.5 million and intends to deliver educational services to 120,000 children in Sudan and nearby nations.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, parents in affluent nations didn’t want their children to put their education on hold for a year or even a month, said Yasmine Sherif, the executive director of the fund.
“So why should we expect them (in Sudan) to wait for education until the conflict is over?”
Several of those who have escaped Sudan are endeavoring to gain admission to schools and universities in other countries, like Egypt. Nonetheless, in Chad, where over 377,000 refugees have sought refuge, these opportunities are nonexistent.
I can’t return to resume my studies, and I’ve lost touch with my family Khalifa Adam, a displaced student who fled Darfur to Adre, Chad said
he can’t return to resume studies, and has lost touch with his family.
“They said I could continue my education online, but the internet connection here in Adre is extremely poor,” he told media.”