Education brings hopes for a better future in Sudan’s South Kordofan
By Faisal Yousaf, UNICEF Sudan
February 2009, Kadugli, Sudan - It is 9:00 am in the Sudanese village of Dhamba, 30 kilometres west of Kadugli town, the capital of Sudan’s South Kordofan State. Children have already started their day in the Dhamba village basic school that was recently built with UNICEF support.
There are 64 students currently enrolled, 29 of them are girls. The school has four classrooms, a teachers’ office and separate latrines for boys and girls. The old school in the village was completely destroyed during the war. The children mainly come from returnee families to the village that fled years ago to escape civil war in the area.
“We are talking to our relatives and encouraging them to return to the area. The opening of the school in the village has strengthened our hopes for peace and stability in the future”, says Alwan Abdel Rehman, the chairperson of parents teachers association (PTA) in Dhamba.
The interest of local communities and the PTA has helped considerably in ensuring the rebuilding this new school on the premises of one destroyed by war.
“There was no school in the village on our return and the community approached the local education office for opening a new school. Later UNICEF helped in building the school in partnership with the State Ministry of Education”, says Musa Ibrahim Tagi, the school’s head teacher.
The local PTA actively participates in the day to day running of the school and provides support whenever needed.
“I was immensely touched by the community’s effort to bring their young children to the premises for pre-school activities,” says Vijya Singh, who works with UNICEF’s education team in South Kordofan. “A year ago, those toddlers were sitting on stones under a tree.”
The three-tier basic education system in Sudan includes two years of pre-schooling, eight at primary level and three years of secondary education.
“Demand for pre-schooling is increasing in the village,” says Mr. Tagi while pointing towards the group of young children cuddled against the backside of school wall under the sun in this relatively cold day in the village.
The number of students in the school has steadily been increasing in the past few months with children from nearby villages also joining the school.
“The number is likely to increase in the future as more and more people return to their villages,” says PTA chairperson Mr. Rehman.
The collaboration between the community, local government and UNICEF has been strengthened through the support of a fourth partner – the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). With its financial assistance, not only here in Dhamba but across South Kordofan, the learning environment in schools has significantly improved with the provision of education supplies through UNICEF, including pupil and teachers kits.With its financial assistance, not only here in Dhamba but across South Kordofan, the learning environment in schools has significantly improved with the provision of education supplies through UNICEF, including pupil and teachers kits. Teachers in the school have received training on child-centred teaching methods, safety from landmines and peace building.
Many challenges, however, still remain – including the scarcity of water in the village and inadequate number of qualified teachers. According to the State Ministry of Education, 3,000 additional teachers are required to fill the gaps across South Kordofan.
In the meantime, the positive experience of Dhamba is one which UNICEF and its partners aim to replicate in communities across Sudan.
“Education for children is crucial to build strong foundations for a peaceful future,” emphasises Joliane Lavigne from CIDA. “The project in this village, which CIDA and UNICEF are proud to be supporting, is heartening and it is good to know that through the combined efforts of the local people and development partners children have a place to study in a protective learning environment.”