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The State of the World's Children 2004

The community that made a difference in Sudan

© 2003/Rhodes
Gender sensitivity means creating school systems, classrooms and societies in which girls as well as boys flourish.

In El-Geneina in West Darfur, an area of Sudan near the border of Chad, UM-Jummah Abdullahi, age 11, travels 10 kilometres each day to collect grass for sale in the market. Two days’ work earns her less than a dollar.

UM-Jummah has missed out on primary schooling. At 42 per cent, Sudan has one of the lowest girls’ enrolment rates in the world, the state of West Darfur has a 22 per cent rate, and where UM-Jummah lives only 1 per cent of girls attend school. 

But times are changing. The Sudanese Government and UNICEF have launched the Child-Friendly Community Initiative, which has opened over 370 community school programmes in the 9 most disadvantaged states of the north and 3 urban areas in the south.

UNICEF helps to rehabilitate schools, furnish classrooms, provide teaching and learning materials and train teachers. The World Food Programme provides cooking utensils and food so 40,000 children in 6 of those states have a daily school meal. Together, they contribute to the construction of school sanitation facilities.

The schools help the entire community. The curriculum integrates basic health and hygiene, which is reinforced by health clubs that educate young people about the importance of vaccinations and AIDS prevention. A single school water-pump also has far-reaching effects – students fill bottles of water and take them home for drinking and washing. Additionally the pupils encourage parents to immunize their children against polio and other preventable diseases.

Schooling in the past was so different. Students spent their days in cramped classes on dust or gravel floors, having to memorize lessons for lack of paper. They went hungry until they had made their long journey home.

The Child-Friendly Community Initiative has also improved school quality. In 2002, UNICEF trained 2,759 teachers, of which 1,200 are women, in gender-sensitive and participatory educational methods.

UM-Jummah is benefiting from another aspect of the Initiative – adult education centres for those who missed out on primary schooling as young children. The Al-Wehda Centre provides her with core subjects and practical skills that will help her supplement her income. The centre’s benefits are felt within her family and community.



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Video feature: Sudan

After rising before dawn for morning prayers, 13-year-old Halima Mamour Mohamed El Basha has tea for breakfast. She then reviews her lessons for the day.
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Halima’s school is for girls of families displaced by years of civil war in Sudan. A cease fire now allows about 340 girls to attend classes again.
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Boys are also returning to school. Many had been drafted to fight in the war, or had fled the country to escape the conflict. Some 25 boys orphaned by the war are provided with room and board, and football.
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In this community, a school for girls is beginning from scratch after the war. Opened in 2003, the schoolgirls initially met under a tree. Currently there are 44 first graders enrolled.
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After a long walk back from school and afternoon chores, Halima drinks coffee with her female family members to catch up on the day’s events.
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