The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) revealed a staggering statistic: approximately 19 million children in Sudan remain out of school, marking a concerning trend six months after the conflict erupted between the army and the Rapid Support Forces. UNICEF describes this situation as “a disaster for an entire generation.”
UNICEF’s statement highlights that 6.5 million children have lost access to education due to escalating violence and insecurity in their regions. The conflict has resulted in the closure of at least 10,400 schools, severely impacting educational opportunities.
Additionally, over 5.5 million children in less affected areas await confirmation from local authorities regarding the reopening of schools, adding to the uncertainty surrounding their education.
Impact on Children
Mary Lewis, UNICEF’s deputy representative, emphasizes the devastating impact of war on children’s lives. She notes that children have witnessed the horrors of war, experiencing loss, displacement, and leaving behind everything familiar.
Experts attribute the soaring rates of school dropout to deteriorating social and economic conditions exacerbated by the prolonged conflict since April. They cite increased school violence and a decline in educational quality as significant factors.
The Sudanese government perceives the rise in school dropout rates as a threat to educational stability. However, the ongoing economic challenges and inadequate allocation of resources to education impede efforts to address this crisis.
Minister of Education of Red Sea State, Hashim Ali Issa, reports a distressing 37% dropout rate among children in the region, forcing them into low-paying jobs due to inadequate educational opportunities.
Insufficient financial resources allocated to education within public budgets, often as low as 2%, have been highlighted as a consequence of prioritizing spending on security and defense sectors over education.
The Sudanese Teachers Committee, representing educators, points out the detrimental impact of the war, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters, and the state’s inability to pay salaries to approximately 300,000 teachers across the country.
Alarmingly, Sudan ranks second globally, after Pakistan, for the number of educational losses, a figure expected to escalate further, potentially making Sudan the country with the highest rate of school dropouts.
According to Mohamed Bilal, member of the teachers’ committee, the Sudanese government’s delayed payments to teachers, spanning over five months, are significantly impeding educational progress.
Consequences of Non-Attendance
Educational experts warn that children not attending school face dire options: migration to urban areas for menial jobs or susceptibility to exploitation, including recruitment into armed groups. This situation fuels unemployment, substance abuse, and societal instability.
The plight of millions of Sudanese children denied education poses a grave threat to their future and the stability of society, creating an urgent call for comprehensive intervention and support.