In Sudan, saving the next generation’s education, one classroom at a time

This story was originally posted by OCHA

In June 2011, children in Sudan’s Geissan locality, Blue Nile State, were eager to return to school after the long summer holidays. For Amel Sadig, 10 years old, this was supposed to be the start of her educational journey.

Becoming educated in poor rural areas of Sudan can be a child’s best route out of poverty. But when violence broke out in several areas in Blue Nile state in 2011, thousands of families, including Amel’s, were forced to flee their villages and settle around Ed Damazine and other towns in the state. Thousands of children were forced to stop their education.

Amel Sadig and her family settled in a host community in the Alshaheed Afandi area on the outskirts of Ed Damzaine. Understanding the importance of education, her family and others fought to ensure that their children’s learning continued, working together with local authorities to build a temporary school.

Over 1,120 families fled their homes in Geissan and took refuge in Alshaheed Afandi, according to Al Rahman Adam, head of the school’s Parents’ Association. Youths and men tended to stay behind to secure their farms and animals, leaving the women and children to flee to safety. “Immediately after we settled, we started to work with local education authorities to establish schools,” said Al Rahman. Once the Parents’ Association and education officials had constructed two simple schools, many local community members volunteered to teach in them, supported by official Ministry of Education certified teachers.

“We started having classes but it got really hot and sometimes there were problems, especially when it started to rain,” said Amel who is now in her third year of primary education.

The temporary schools also lacked education materials, toilets and a drinking water sources. A national NGO, Al Salam Organization for Rehabilitation and Development (AORD), stepped in to remedy the situation. They identified the facilities most in need of improvement and replaced the temporary structures with schools built from more durable materials.

Thanks to money provided by the Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF), the OCHA-managed country-based pooled fund, AORD also built latrines, provided chairs and supplied the schools with education materials.

“During conflict situations children’s education is halted, leaving them at risk of being recruited by armed groups. This is why humanitarians need to ensure that schools remain open as schools are considered a safe haven for children,” said UNICEF’s Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Amina Akasha.

“Now, I sit on a nice desk and I get new notebooks, exercise books and pens. When it is hot, we just open the windows. I copy my lessons well and I don’t need not to worry about my clothes getting dirty from sitting on the dusty class ground,” said Amel Sadig with a smile.

Classroom built with available local materials (L) and new classroom built with durable materials by AORD. Credit: OCHA/Shakir Yahia Elhassan.

Students receiving notebooks in a school in Blue Nile State, in Sudan. Credit: OCHA/Shakir Yahia Elhassan