In Sudan, at least 26,000 primary school children risk repeating an entire school year
Khartoum, 20 March 2014 - Primary school-aged children in Sudan are in double jeopardy as conflicts continue and families get displaced: they are on the run and it is right before exam time for Grade 8, the end of the primary school cycle. According to the school year schedule, these exams are held and graded before the end of March.
Since January, a sudden onset of new conflicts has triggered more than 120,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in Darfur alone; and Education sector partners in Sudan estimate that there are now over 26,000 newly displaced school-aged children in Darfur. Many of these will not have a chance to go to school in the near future, and much less sit the Grade 8 exam which would give them the opportunity to pursue secondary education or vocational training.
The children of Darfur have suffered long enough. The consequence of possibly missing the Grade 8 exam is that 13-year-old children will have to repeat Grade 8 – for reasons entirely beyond their own control. We owe it to these children to help them prepare for their futures, without delay, said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Representative in Sudan. ‘
The Ministry of Education has responded to the crisis with candor and foresight.
In South Darfur, UNICEF and partners have supported the State Ministry of Education to establish two examination centers for newly displaced Grade 8 children to sit their exams which began on 15 March. The WASH sector has contributed latrines and sanitation facilities; Health has provided mosquito nets; and the national NGO Noun are now providing three meals a day for the 10 day exam period.
For the East Jebel Mara and Sunta localities in South Darfur, owing to the security situation in that area, UNICEF has supported the Ministry of Education with one center each in Nyala and Buram including accommodation to ensure that G8 students are able to sit their exams.
In North Darfur State, G8 students in five emergency-affected localities need to sit for their G8 exam.
Due to the new displacement and conflict in the area, the North Darfur State Ministry of Education has decided to postpone the exams in the five localities until 26 April. Three towns have been identified to provide exam centers to account for the full number of affected students: one in El Fasher, one in Um Keddada, and one in Kabkiya). UNICEF has released 1,250 sitting mats and 50 plastic sheets to support preparation of exam centers, and partners including the World Food Program (WFP) and the WASH and Health Sectors have committed to providing other basics like water and sanitation, school meals, and mosquito nets.
Assessments are ongoing in Saraf Omra to determine how many children in that area would need to sit for their G8 exam, and the required logistics.
UNICEF and partners aim to support the Ministry of Education to prepare safe exam centers and compile ‘exam kits’ for children containing basic supplies.
The new academic year for Sudan’s B track is approaching rapidly, and the majority of IDP children are scheduled to start classes again in early April.
We have no time to spare in helping the Government ensure that children have the opportunity to resume education in safe, quality learning spaces, said Geert Cappelaere.
The children affected by this situation also include South Sudanese. Over the past three months, the border region has seen an influx of families and children fleeing conflict in South Sudan. UNICEF is in dialogue with UNHCR to determine how best to cater to the needs of South Sudanese refugee children so that they, too, may get a chance to go to school and retain some sense of normalcy in their lives