National Council for Child Welfare and UNICEF welcome National Plan to close Khalwas and reunite children with families

Across Sudan Governors are closing Quranic boarding schools (Khalwas) to prevent COVID-19 spread

25 June 2020
children wearing masks on bus
UNICEF Sudan

KHARTOUM 25 June 2020 – Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Labour and Social Development announced a National Plan for the release, family tracing and reunification of Khalwas children (Quranic boarding schools) as young as five studying and living in the Khalwas across the 18 states of Sudan. 

The closure of the Khalwas and the evacuation of the children living in the crowded facilities without parental care is one of the strategies adopted to contain the spread of the coronavirus. 

The National Council for Child Welfare (NCCW) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are working very closely with other government partners in the COVID-19 outbreak response through the provision of appropriate child protection measures for separated and unaccompanied children.

The prevention methods and support offered include mental health and psychosocial support to the children, parents, and primary caregivers.

NCCW and UNICEF have been building capacity of personnel and partners on gender-based violence, risk mitigation and referrals for survivors, including abuse and promoting preventive measures to help limit the spread of the virus and protect children and their families.

State Governors across Sudan have initiated the closing of the Khalwas and called on social workers to support in reunifying these vulnerable children with their families. 

Currently, 10,924 children, including girls, between the ages of 5 to 18 were reunified with their families, and a few who are not from Sudan, are staying in alternative care until they can safely go back home. UNICEF supported the NCCW, by providing transportation for children in different states and localities. 

“The children inside these facilities are forced to remain there and do not receive a variety of education. The crowdedness in the Khalwas can affect children tremendously as they are more vulnerable and exposed to neglect, exploitation, even violence and do not receive suitable psychosocial support,” said UNICEF Acting Representative Mohamed Abderrahmane Ould Bouasria. 

Over 800 community-based child protection mechanisms were established across Sudan up to 2019. These mechanisms include social workers who work with community leaders to raise awareness about the CRC and the possible harm children may face in Khalwas. 

NCCW, UNICEF and partners are advocating and working on legal and national reform strategies that will institutionalize the Khalwas. This will allow for easier monitoring of the Khalwas, addressing all child protection abuses, introduce other educational aspects for children and help avoid informal education. 

“The transitional government cannot afford this traditional system of religious education as it was for 300 years ago without major reform,” said Osman Abufatima Secretary General NCCW.

As the community transmission of COVID-19 is on the rise in Sudan, NCCW and UNICEF aim to ensure access to healthcare and essential services at the targeted health facilities in an integrated manner, to contain the spread of COVID-19 and limit fatalities. This approach will consider all child protection measures including psychosocial support and gender-based violence interventions to include separated and unaccompanied children.

Media Contacts

Fatma Naib
Chief of Communication & Advocacy
UNICEF Sudan
Salma Ismail
Communications Officer
UNICEF Sudan

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