A safe return to school for students in Sudan

Teachers were trained and schools were equipped to facilitate a safe return to schools after lock-downs

Reem Abbas
Student at Tahamyam Primary School, Red Sea State
17 March 2022

By the time the first wave of COVID-19 hit Sudan in March 2020, schools had already been severely disrupted by the security situation and political unrest in Sudan since late 2018. As Sudan witnessed more COVID-19 waves and ensuing lockdowns in the past two years, 8.1 million students were affected by schools' closure, with only a few schools providing remote learning. 

Since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, UNICEF has been supporting the Sudanese Federal and State Ministries of Education in the safe re-opening of schools, as part of the organization's global strategy to keep children learning. It is certain that school closures have led to learning losses, a greater number of out-of-school children, increased risk of dropouts and mental distress. These prolonged closures also put children at risk of more violence, child marriage and child labour. 

Mona Ibrahim leads the projects and organizations department at Khartoum State’s Ministry of Education. Mona supervised the implementation of UNICEF’s Support for education during COVID-19 project. She was part of the capacity-building efforts to train teachers using the Teacher Preparedness Training Package (TPTP). 

“We trained teachers using the TPTP model to ensure they are prepared for the safe re-opening of schools. This package includes raising awareness on COVID-19, safety protocols to be implemented inside classrooms, including the one for when positive cases are flagged in classrooms,” says Mona. 

teachers training in Al-Jazeera
Teachers are trained on the TPTP in Wad Medani in Al-Jazeera state in Central Sudan

Developed by UNICEF as an emergency response tool for teachers and schools, the TPTP addresses three concerns: safe school operations, well-being, and protection, and back to learning. The TPTP allows teachers to use various learning tools and teaching methods to reach students affected by lockdowns. It also ensures that schools, teachers, and students stay safe. 

Additionally, the TPTP raises teachers’ awareness of mental distress. Teachers, students, and families have suffered stress and anxiety during lockdowns. 

“We introduced teachers to the best approaches to help students deal with mental distress and understand how the pandemic is affecting them,” says Mona.  

One of the biggest challenges facing the educational system in Sudan today is the need to bridge the widening learning gap, especially, as students missed many classes and were struggling to catch up during the past couple of years. 

In 2020 and 2021, UNICEF was able to reach 5,931 teachers through TPTP in Khartoum and other states across Sudan. The training reached teachers, students and families in over 2,000 schools. To complement that effort, UNICEF rolled out hygiene supplies and other education initiatives to promote hygiene messages in schools and surrounding communities.  

In all seven localities of Khartoum State more than 100 teachers were trained. Mahmoud highlighted how the training raised teachers’ awareness on waste management approaches that could be used in schools and in their communities.  

Mahmoud Eisa
Mahmoud Eisa Arbab, a teacher, was trained by the project in Khartoum state.

“Following the training, schools received a useful hygiene kit to help us teachers implement what we learned. The kit contained soap, sanitizers, masks and other necessary supplies.” says Mahmoud Eisa Arbab, a mathematics and physics teacher at Al-Shaheed Yousif Ibrahim Primary School for Boys in Jebel Awelia Locality, one of the teachers UNICEF reached through TPTP. 

UNICEF supported many schools across Sudan to establish children health and hygiene clubs to help respond to the pandemic. UNICEF-trained teachers to build the capacity of students who are part of these clubs, promoting hygiene messages to more students and communities. 

“The main aim of the project was to build a supportive learning environment and ensure that students and teachers have a safe return to schools,” says Mona. ”And for schools to remain open.” 

Thanks to a generous contribution from the Government of Canada, UNICEF Sudan trained hundreds of teachers on TPTP and provided hygiene kits for a safe return to school for children in all states across Sudan.