Schools closed due to another armed conflict: reflections from students and teachers – Sudan

Original by Ko IMANAKA, Sudan Project (June 9, 2021); Translated by C. Rosenberg

JVC operates five additional schools in Kaduqli. At the end of March, an ethnic conflict erupted in the district of Shair, located near one of the schools.

A group of pastoralists were traveling with their cattle when a dispute with locals over water for their cattle erupted, which escalated into a shootout. Sudanese armed forces were dispatched to the scene, but residents blocked roads and established checkpoints for passing resistance vehicles. Shortly after, the following events occurred:

  • A man not involved in the conflict who came to Kaduqli for a wedding ceremony was shot and killed.
  • NGO vehicles were hit.
  • When an NGO employee drove by in a personal vehicle, they were asked about their ethnicity. His windshield then shattered.

Since the victim of the above-mentioned shooting was an Arab shepherd from the Baggara people, local Nuba feared retaliation after last year’s attacks. large-scale armed conflicts. Thus, many people fled Shair district to military bases or to the homes of close relatives. Most of the residents, including women and children, were evacuated and only a few men remained in order to protect their homes. As a result, not only the regular school but also the additional classes we run have been temporarily suspended.

Last year, 62 students completed our additional school program in Shair District, and in March of this year, we confirmed that 57 of them were going to study in formal morning classes. A month after the conflict, people began to return to the neighborhood and schools reopened. At the end of April, when we did the formal morning class follow-up, there were still only 26 students.

Musim, 14, achieved one of the top four scores on last year’s final exam and transferred to the fourth grade of formal school.

He was very happy to hear that the schools had reopened. “A week ago, I came back to Shair’s neighborhood. I couldn’t go to school and stayed indoors for a month. I am so happy that school is resuming! Miamia (great)! ”

Mr. Dhahiya, teacher at Shair Primary School, expressed concern about the lack of students returning to school.

“Look closely at these classrooms. There are still so many absent. Other schools start their end of year exams next week. Since our school was closed, we are not yet ready to start exams.

I am of the Nuba ethnicity, but a lot of Baggara herders live around my home. We have built a good relationship without any problem. During the armed conflicts of the last year, I saw mutilated bodies, missing heads and others mutilated by dogs. I guess since they were shot while fleeing into the mountains, they were discovered too late. But why do we have to kill innocent people like this?

Most of my siblings are soldiers; I am the only teacher. As my family is poor, I was unable to go to university, but I hope to one day be able to study in the capital Khartoum. I want to change the education system in Sudan. Classes should be free and the number of students per class should be reduced. At the moment, our classrooms are overflowing: in a class, there are up to 130 students. We need to reduce that number to 40 students or less, but we just don’t have enough classrooms.

Mr. Abdulbaqi, teacher and head of Shair district, also spoke about the role of education in this district.

“For children, education is like light. It guides them to future jobs and a future for themselves, their families and their communities. On the other hand, ignorance is the enemy of our families and our communities. The conflicts that frequently occur here are caused by a lack of education. That is why we must continually invest in education. Of course, education is not just about school; parents also play a very important role. That’s what I tell the locals here. There are 18 different ethnic groups living together in Shair District. As a community leader and teacher, my job is to prevent these groups from engaging in conflict.

The Shair neighborhood is not the only place affected by armed conflict. Even in a neighborhood 15 kilometers from Shair, student attendance has slowed since the day of the conflict, with parents feeling uncomfortable sending their children to schools near their villages.

Armed conflicts like this can easily deprive children of educational opportunities. However, there are many people like Mr. Abdulbaqi who point out that the need for education exists and is growing even in the said conflict-affected areas. In addition to providing support to children who have lost access to education, we also implement initiatives to help them avoid conflict and coexist as a community. We will keep you posted on the details of our initiatives.