Education - a tool for change

UNICEF's support to Education in the mountains of Jebel Marra

Florine Bos
Girl writing on schoolboard
Florine Bos
04 July 2021

High in the mountains of Jebel Marra, there is a small school. In the school yard we meet hundreds of children in colourful clothes, waiting for their class to start. Although the school seems small, there are over 1,500 students enrolled. More than 100 children per classroom sit tightly packed on rocks instead of benches or chairs. Due to the large number of students, the highest grade (Grade 8) is operating on a  ‘double shift’ basis – half of the children attend class in the morning and the other half in the afternoon. The pre-school, students are learning under the large tree in the school yard as there is not sufficient space for them.

Classroom in Gorlangbang
Florine Bos
Students and teachers
Florine Bos

Education as tool for change

The school was constructed in 1982 by the community itself. All teachers attended their basic education in this school before moving to largest cities for further education and training opportunities. They decided to come back and share their knowledge with the children in their community. Most of them walk for two or more hours to reach the school and work on a voluntary basis.

This is our community, our people, we have to sacrifice to teach our children. Illiteracy is an obstacle to the development of the community. When educated, the children have more opportunities in life and contribute in meaningful ways to society’

Ustaadh Ahmed

Education is a clear priority for the community in Gorlanbang, education, is a tool for change, a path to a better future for the children in Jebel Marra. Young Ali (9-years old) agrees: ‘I need books in Arabic and English, a school uniform and a football’ he says, ‘so that I can learn more about the world’.

Two girls writing on schoolboard
Florine Bos
Girl writing on schoolboard
Florine Bos

Barriers to education

There are multiple barriers to accessing education: girls marry young (as young as 10 or 11 years old) and some students come with their babies to school. Menstruation is also a reason why girls stop coming to school, especially during their period as separate toilets for girls and boys and sanitary pads are unavailable. Child labour is another challenge, with children dropping out of school to support their families on the farms or in the local market. Overall poverty is also affecting school attendance; although school is free, families tend to keep their children at home so that they can contribute to the family income.

 

Looking towards the future

Thanks to the generous contribution from the Muslim World League, UNICEF distributed 1,740 learning materials (school bags, notebooks, pens), as well as ‘school-in-a-box’ and recreational kits. UNICEF also facilitated trainings for teachers, amongst others on education-in-emergencies.

The teachers valued the capacity-building trainings, especially the psychosocial aspects so that they know better how to support their students. They hope to further improve their knowledge and skills. The children on the other hand, were especially happy with the distribution of recreational materials. The recreational kits contained sport items, such as balls and shirts. Two football team have since been formed (Real Madrid, playing in blue, and Barca, playing in red). When we asked the boys what they hope for their community, their future, they said that they hope that one day a professional football team will be established in Jebel Marra.

Boy holding UNICEF soccer ball
Florine Bos
Boy holding UNICEF soccer ball
Florine Bos