Like many countries in Africa, primary education (6 to 13 years) is compulsory for children and lasts for eight years followed by a period of three years of secondary education where compulsory subjects include religion, citizenship, history, and geography. Despite primary education being free, Sudan has a high level of out-of-school children with an estimated three million children between the ages of 5-13 years being out of the classroom and while overall 76% of primary age children attend school that rate dips to just 21-28% for secondary school children, reflecting the fact is has to be paid for and that is beyond the scope of many families. Numbers are even lower in rural areas. As ever, traditional views of the role of women in society mean fewer girls attend and remain in school (estimated at 49%) and those who do attend are not protected against discrimination in classrooms and are often mistreated by teachers who adhere to gender norms in Sudan that women only belong in the house to care for children and undertake domestic responsibilities. The years of turmoil have taken their toll of school attendance particularly in the south and Darfur regions.
At the time of independence, education in Sudan, whilst rudimentary, was considered to be in a decent shape with English being the language of use in secondary education and local languages in primary. Then, in September 1990, the Bashir government decided to Islamize the system and imposed a Muslim curriculum that was to be taught in all schools, colleges and universities. The new curriculum consisted of two elements with the obligatory elements drawn from the Quran and the recognized books of the Hadith. This effectively meant that non-Muslims had significant parts of their time in school learning how to recite passages from the Quran which was menaingless to them and elements of other subjcets were infused with Islamic teachings. Many believe this was a significant factor in the Christian south of the country pressing for independence.
A further requirement was that membership of the Popular Defence Forces, a paramilitary body allied to the National Islamic Front, became a requirement for university admission. A year later it was decreed that Arabic should be used as the language of instruction, replacing English. Many academics who were opposed to this policy were dismissed including seventy faculty members of the University of Khartoum. Within seconday education, the first program aimed at preparing students for the higher education level with subjects such as biology, chemistry, physics and geography whilst the second aimed at preparing students for employment after graduation and included courses similar to those offered by commercial, agricultural, technical and teacher-training schools. Many such vocational training centres in Sudan, however, had little interest shown in them by the government with support mainly coming from external aid agencies and foreign donors.
In 2018, the literacy rate in Sudan was 60.7% of total population, (male: 65.4%, female: 56.1% ~ however this is significantly higher than the rate at the time of independence in 1956 when it was a lowly 22.9%). The World Bank in 2018 estimated that more than 40% of children aged 5-13 had no education with, in 2017, the government of Sudan seemingly giving the sector little regard committing less than 1% of public spending towards education. Organisations such as the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) is working within the country to strengthen the education system by aiming to improve access to textbooks, the quality of the academic environment and overall strengthening the institutional capacity of the education system. The organisation has allocated more than $76 million toward building 2,000 classrooms across the country, providing grants to 750 schools, distributing over 6 million textbooks and establishing teacher monitoring. It remains to be seen what impact the further turmoil in the country will have on education in Sudan.
Education in Sudan: Volunteer in Sudan
Education in Sudan: Children in Sudan
Education in Sudan: Child Sponsor Sudan
Education in Sudan: Sudan Country Profile
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