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Director of centre reforming Sudan education system resigns

January 8 - 2021 KHARTOUM / PORT SUDAN
Cartoon by Omar Dafallah depicts Sudanese Salafist commenting on a new geography school book: "Tell me honestly, shouldn't this boy and girl be covered in order to prevent chaos in the country?" (RD)
Cartoon by Omar Dafallah depicts Sudanese Salafist commenting on a new geography school book: "Tell me honestly, shouldn't this boy and girl be covered in order to prevent chaos in the country?" (RD)

The director of the National Centre for Curricula and Educational Research, Omar El Garai, submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok yesterday, following the PM’s decision to suspend the Centre’s development of the new curricula and form a new committee.

El Garai’s National Centre for Curricula and Educational Research was, until Wednesday, tasked with the reform of Sudan’s education system.

In a press statement, El Garai accused the government of “handing over the revolution to supporters of the former regime, the forces of religious obsession and blind extremism”. Addressing Hamdok, he said: “Your government has chosen the side of modelling the regime, and I chose the side of the people”.

He criticised Hamdok for not informing him and other stakeholders about the PM’s proposal to consult Muslim clerics and leaders of religious sects “who do not have any relation to the educational curricula”.

“The new committee will include 64 curricula experts in curricula. I wonder if it would not be better to add members of the Ansar El Sunna* and the Muslim Brotherhood as well,” he added ironically.

“Your government has chosen the side of modelling the regime, and I chose the side of the people” – Omar El Garai

Dozens of members of the Muslim Brotherhood attempted to storm the school curricula conference held by the Ministry of Education in Khartoum yesterday. They burned pictures of El Garai in protest against the new curriculum.

El Garai confirmed that the group was not able to enter the hall, and that the curriculum conference is continuing. He said they were chanting slogans such as “There is no God but Allah, and El Garai is His enemy”, a variation on the testimony “There is no God but Allah, and Mohamed is His prophet”.

He blamed imams of mosques for inciting “these young men”, though “they themselves did not come with them”. He reproached the authorities of being “too lenient with these groups and their inflammatory rhetoric”, and emphasised that the change in the country will continue “whether I remain or not”.

Earlier this week, Radio Dabanga reported that El Garai had received death threats over the controversy.

Halted

The Ansar El Sunna and Ansar Affairs Authority welcomed Hamdok's decision to form a new national committee to prepare the curricula.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok instructed the National Centre for Curricula and Educational Research in Khartoum to stop developing new school curricula as their proposals caused controversy in the country.

In the press statement, he said that he discussed the matter with a wide range of academics, educators, religious leaders, and civil society activists.

The proposed new school books were widely criticised, in particular by Muslim clerics.

Beja disregarded

In Port Sudan, dozens of people held a protest yesterday in the yard of the Red Sea state Ministry of Education against the ignoring the Beja tribe’s origin and culture in the sixth grade history course.

In a memorandum to the Red Sea State, the protesters demanded the book be withdrawn immediately, and the article concerned with eastern Sudan and the Beja be reformulated, in addition to holding accountable everyone who was involved and neglected so that the book came out in its current form.

They also demanded a review of all school historical material on eastern Sudan, and the involvement of Beja historians and researchers in the development of the school curricula.

* Ansar El Sunna literally means ‘Followers of the Sunna’, the Prophet Mohamed’s way of life, teachings, and actions. They preach Salafism, and their main focus is the daawa, Muslim missionary activities. Concerning the position of women and girls, they say the Koran and Sunna dictates gender segregation. Women should fully cover their faces. Readings of Islamic texts that do not conform to this interpretation are deemed non-Muslim. (Liv Tønnessen, 2016)


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