Montasir's story of a second chance to excel

A second chance at education

Ahmed Amin Ahmed
Teenage boy holding a UNICEF backpack
UNICEF Sudan/Dawe
15 July 2018

A bustling market in Sudan’s capital city of Khartoum, serves as an unlikely setting for young workers previously forced to choose between earning a living or attending school, to now get a second chance at an education.
More than 3 million children in Sudan are out-of-school. Some have had their education disrupted by conflict, many simply cannot afford the informal school fees or costs of uniforms, notebooks and pens. 

With little experience of school, seventeen-year old Montasir came to Khartoum two years ago from Tendalti, in rural central Sudan, to find work to help his family. 

“Back in Tendalti there is no source of income,” said Montasir. “There are only farmers and shepherds. My father is ill and he can’t work, so I need to work. I want to work.”

As the eldest child in his family, there was pressure on Montasir to earn money, and until recently his focus was on earning what he could to support his loved ones. 

“I dropped out of school in first grade. I’d never been to school before.” 

However, that changed in 2016, thanks to an informal UNICEF and Qatar-supported Educate A Child (EAC) learning centre which opened in the upper level of a busy mosque beside the market. Rather than requiring children to attend regular school hours, the learning centre runs two hours of daily classes in maths, English, Arabic and computer studies, starting at 10am. This flexibility means that young market workers can learn on their own terms. And the take-up continues to grows.

“We came to the central market to work first,” explains Montasir. “But then we discovered the school, so me and my brother we came here to study. They told us that we can work and after, at 10 o’clock, we can come to the school.”

The Accelerated Learning Programme (ALP) centres are aimed at children who have never attended school, dropped out of school or who are so far behind they cannot return to mainstream education without first catching up on missed years of learning. UNICEF and Education Above All (EAA), through the Educate A child initiative supports these centres by training teachers, developing child-friendly curriculums and providing teaching and learning materials.  

The ALP curriculum condenses two years of formal school, allowing children like Montasir to make up for lost time with their education, and opening up a new world of possibilities. 

“I want to learn. I just want to get a proper education. My teacher has helped me a lot, and she’ll even help me to get to university.”

Just five years after the programme started, nearly 2,500 accelerated learning centres have been established across Sudan, giving thousands of children the chance to reach their potential.

UNICEF also supports education at a policy and planning level, by developing education strategies to make sure no child gets left behind.