Around 6.9 million Sudanese children, a third of those of school age in Sudan, are out of school, while another twelve million will see their education interrupted by the shortage of teachers and infrastructure in the African country.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Save the Children have highlighted that “school is more than just a learning space for children” and added that “in addition to reading, writing and math, they learn social and emotional skills, play in a safe environment and have access to other key services.”
“Schools protect children from the physical dangers around them, including abuse, exploitation and recruitment into armed groups,” they have said in their joint statement, in which they have highlighted that they also “provide psychosocial support, giving children stability and structure in a volatile environment.”
Thus, they have argued that “for many children in Sudan, education is a lifeline” and lamented that the worsening socio-economic situation, conflicts and school closures due to the coronavirus pandemic have resulted in that “once children drop out of school, the likelihood of them returning is low.”
“Girls are especially vulnerable. Evidence suggests that the economic crisis is deepening gender inequality in Sudan, especially among adolescent girls,” they said.
As such, both UNICEF and Save the Children have warned that “without urgent action, the learning crisis in Sudan will become a generational catastrophe.”
Thus, they have emphasized that “to avoid further losses, reopening schools and providing alternative educational opportunities for children who have missed many years of school is a top priority.”
“No country can afford to have one-third of its school-age children without basic literacy, numeracy or digital skills. Education is not just a right, it is a lifeline,” said UNICEF’s representative in Sudan, Mandeep O’Brien’.
Along these lines, Save the Children’s Sudan Country Director Arshad Malik warned that “without an ambitious focus on addressing these crucial issues, more girls and boys will lose their childhood to labor, marriage and other violations of their rights.”
Thus, UNICEF and Save the Children have called on the Sudanese government to reopen schools as soon as possible and to ensure that the centers are not occupied by armed actors, while requesting sufficient funding for the education system.