A diamond in Sudan’s South Kordofan
Meet Ruqiya - Sudan’s next top news presenter
“What is the stone that never breaks?”
Ruqiya Ibrahim El Sharif, 12, has just posed this question to a group of girls during the morning assembly at Umm Battah School. This morning she has stumped them.
“A diamond,” the 12-year old says smiling brightly.
Ruqiya lives in Kadugli in South Kordofan near the border with South Sudan. It is a heavily militarized area that has suffered decades of conflict. The impact for children has been especially devastating, with thousands out-of-school or experiencing gaps in their education.
“I was scared,” Ruqiya says when she spoke about the conflict that caused many of her neighbors to flee. But then, true to her unbreakable optimism, she says firmly, “now I am not scared because there is a peace talk.”
Historic peace talks began in October between the transitional government of Sudan and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) and the Sudan Revolutionary Front. It might be unusual for a 12-year old to diligently follow political developments but Ruqiya is not an ordinary grade school student. In class 7 there are over one hundred girls, Ruqiya is unique in that she is the only one who wants to be a news presenter. Not just any news presenter she wants to be a crusader for the truth. “So many people cover up things, I want to uncover bad things and help the poor of Sudan.”
Ruqiya is already practicing for her dream. Her favorite tv programme is a quiz show that she watches after finishing her homework. During the morning assembly she takes questions from the show and presents them to the entire school. If she doesn’t get any good questions from the show she selects questions from school books and tailors them to each class. “I will say Class 1, this question is for you, and then so on, “says Ruqiya.
Ruqiya has big dreams for her future, “when I grow up I will have a media company with all the most advanced technology and I will choose the best people, “she says.
How will she make her dreams happen? “You have to be focused and you have to study to be successful,” she says. Already she has seen her hard work pay off. Ruqiya was one of a select group of girls chosen by her principal to be in the health club. “I felt very honored to be selected for the health club. Some of the girls don’t have good hygiene so I talk to them and tell them how they can be better, like washing their hands.”
Ruqiya is moving closer to achieving her dreams every day, and she is lucky that her family supports her. One of the youngest of seven siblings, Ruqiya has an older sister in college who always makes sure she focuses on her homework so that she can follow in her footsteps.
Umm Battah is a UNICEF-supported school in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Government of Japan, UN Central Emergency Response Fund, Educate A Child Qatari Project and implementing partner ASSIST. UNICEF and partners have supported the school through the construction of classrooms, distribution of learning materials, opening of Alternate Learning Programme ALP classrooms for Out of school Children and the establishment of a solar-powered water facility with elevated water tank as well as drinking and handwashing facilities.