Quality education is a right for all children
Article 28 of the UNCRC stipulates that every child has the right to an education. The benefits of education and learning are enormous. Learning is an equalizer and it is a game changer.
Sudan has made significant improvements in basic education over the last decade. Between 2008 and 2018, the total number of schools (public and private) increased by 2,800, allowing one million more children to access education. The number of students completing primary education and proceeding to secondary school increased from 251 to 336 thousand annually during the same time.
However, despite the progress, around 6.9 million children in Sudan remain out of school, despite an increase in the number of schools and enrolled students over the past decade. Political instability and the pandemic have resulted in extended school closures that have disrupted the education of over 8 million Sudanese children since 2019, decimating years of progress.
Moreover, following the pandemic, prolonged school closures and unequal mitigation strategies have negatively impacted 8.1 million children (aged 5 – 18) enrolled in school, as well as worsening the situation for 6.9 million children out of school, especially those living through conflicts and crises. The girl child is especially vulnerable – evidence suggests that COVID-19’s associated economic crises exacerbated gender inequalities in Sudan, and even more so among adolescent girls. The primary driver of dropout for girls has been economic—compounded by pregnancy, early marriage and FGM.
UNICEF Sudan builds on its past work to accelerate progress towards ensuring learning outcomes for all children in Sudan:
Access to education:
UNICEF continues to build and strengthen it is partnership to drive its programme to afford all children, including the most marginalised and those in humanitarian situations, the opportunity to access quality education in formal and non-formal approaches. To improve access to education, UNICEF supports equitable access to quality primary education opportunities with emphasis on increasing intake of grade one age children (six years of age) and increasing access to education opportunities through alternative learning programmes (ALPs) for older age out-of-school children that meet their needs. Moreover, the education programme will intensively engage in mobilisation and outreach towards communities and learners at locality and community-level through the ‘come to school’ campaign to increase enrolment and promote retention, especially of girls living in the most remote areas and children with disabilities.
Significantly, on 20 October 2021, Sudan became the fourteenth country to contextualize and launch the Learning Passport. The e-learning platform was adapted to Sudanese Arabic and houses the PDF versions of Government textbooks with more than over 1,400 audio-visual modules and over 2,200 interactive learning activities in addition to assessments to measure learning progress. Given the subsequent political unrest, this platform is essential to ensuring continuity of education as the operation of schools has been disrupted. Approximately 20 touchscreens were procured and installed throughout Khartoum in various locations, such as mosques, souks, and outdoor spaces to reach children and youth.
In addition to e-learning, over 189,000 out-of-school children benefited from the Alternative Learning Programme (ALP) implemented by UNICEF and the Ministry of Education. Given continuous school closures in the formal education system due to COVID-19 and political unrest, this intervention was critical to providing education opportunities for affected populations in Sudan.
Building on the gains made on e-learning, this work will be expanded into the adolescents’ space to offer additional alternative learning opportunities for out-of-school use in hard-to-reach areas, using low-cost technology coupled with solar energy. Moreover, UNICEF will build and expand on its work in the area of digital learning, expanding access to e-learning for out-of-school children in 50 communities (aiming to reach 6,000 children through the gamification of the ALP programme).
UNICEF aims to introduce ICT into the formal education, leveraging the software content and Learning Passport to provide quality learning opportunities for students. The Learning Passport was designed at the global level between UNICEF and Microsoft, as a solution designed to close the learning poverty gap. The Learning Passport is an online, mobile, and offline tech platform enabling high quality, flexible learning. Its mission is to enable continuous access to education for children, youth, and teachers around the world and drive improved learning outcomes through high-quality, portable education to support their entry into other education or opportunity pathways, including formal education.
To address the disproportionate deprivations affecting children in internally displaced and refugee communities, nomads, children in rural areas, girls and children with disabilities, UNICEF and its partners work at the policy-level to promote the protection, education and integration of marginalised children into the public education system. More than half of out-of-school children are from conflict-affected areas; therefore, UNICEF will continue its education in emergencies advocacy and programmes.
Quality of education:
UNICEF focuses on in-service teacher training especially for basic level teachers. UNICEF continues to coordinate with other partners to ensure efforts are complemented with training of teachers of the intermediate level and for pre-service level. UNICEF complements the government’s role in coordination of teacher training interventions at national and sub-national levels and aims to play a key role in the piloting and adoption of the teachers, headmasters, and supervisors competencies framework.
UNICEF will pilot a remedial education project. The pilot will focus on two states (in Darfur and Kordofan) but will bring several national and international partners to address the learning loss for children. The project will focus on a strong model for teachers training and mentorship, and continuous monitoring and assessment of impact for children.
UNICEF supports the Government of Sudan to model early childhood education, through low-cost and scalable interventions. At the same time, UNICEF will drive the adolescent’s agenda, recognising the large percentage of the Sudanese population within this age range and their great need for education. This will incorporate aspects of life skills education, literacy and numeracy, and transition to work opportunities.