On Thursday, eastern Sudan’s El Gedaref witnessed a protest march against the forced evacuation of displaced people from two dormitories, as university students are returning to the city. People in River Nile state have ruled out the resumption of classes this Sunday, noting that most of the schools are sheltering displaced people. Teachers say they reject ‘educational fragmentation of the country’.
On Wednesday, displaced who fled the fighting between the Sudan Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces in Khartoum were violently evicted from the El Rasheed and Omar bin Abdelaziz boarding houses in El Gedaref.
A pregnant woman and newborn babies suffered from breathing problems caused by the excessive use of tear gas, volunteers at the dormitories told Radio Dabanga.
They said that five fellow volunteers, two men and three women, were held on Wednesday for filming the eviction. “They were severely beaten and forced to show the contents of their mobile phones, before they were taken to the office of the Youth Club – which used to function as the headquarters of the El Gedaref Emergency Room before its activities were banned by the authorities.”
The five volunteers were released on Thursday.
The evicted displaced were transferred to schools in the city. “Yet, the schools do have far less services than the boarding houses,” one of the sources explained. “They were to make room for medical students returning to their studies.”
Sudan’s Emergency Lawyers, the United Human Rights Centre, and the El Gedaref Salvation Initiative condemned the forced eviction. The initiative called on the displaced “to organise themselves to defend their rights” and on the El Gedaref community “to show solidarity”.
New school year
In early October, Osman Hussein, acting Minister of Cabinet Affairs in charge of carrying out the duties of the Prime Minister, announced the start of the 2023-2024 school year for schools “in safe areas” no later than the end of that month.
Universities and colleges were set to resume their studies in mid-October, as per the direction of the acting Minister of Higher Education, Mohamed Dahab.
With an estimated 19 million children out of school in the war zones, and many schools in safe areas having been turned into temporary shelters, Sudan’s education sector is still divided over the decision to resume studies.
In northern Sudan’s River Nile state, teachers ruled out that the state government’s decision to open schools on Sunday can be implemented.
“There are 80,000 displaced people in River Nile state, and about 50 percent of them have been accommodated in 23 primary schools and eight secondary schools,” teacher Mohamed Sayed told Radio Dabanga yesterday.
“The state government’s decision was wrong,” he stated, and referred to the decisions of neighbouring Northern state and more recently, El Gezira, south of Khartoum, to postpone the resumption of classes.
“The decision of the River Nile government did not take into account the humanitarian situation, and we should avoid what happened in El Gedaref where the displaced were violently removed.”
A member of the administrative committee in El Wehda in Atbara told Radio Dabanga that four schools in the neighbourhood shelter displaced people, “but we have not received any notice about the evacuation of displaced people from schools”.
The River Nile state Teachers Committee also rejects the opening of schools in the current situation.
“The situation in the so-called safe areas is far from conducive for the resumption of classes,” committee member Musab Abdeljalil commented from the state capital of Ed Damer.
“Firstly, a large number of schools cannot be opened as they are still hosting displaced people. Secondly, there are hardly schoolbooks available, and new material for the third intermediate grade has not come out yet. And thirdly, teachers here have not been paid for more than three months, so they and most of the other parents have no money to buy school supplies for their children.”
Abdeljalil urged the River Nile state Education Ministry to provide education data. “In a war situation, it is difficult for the educational process to transfer pupils and students to a new level, and pupils and students for the past year are still unknown.”
The teacher called on the state authorities to reverse this decision “because it is a crime, leading to further disintegration of the children in the country, while we need an education process based on an integrated vision and not a process leading to fragmentation”.
He appealed to teachers “not to be part of this crime because this process has nothing to with education.
“We do not want an elitist education that serves half of the students in the country, but a normal education that includes all,” he continued. “We definitely do not want River Nile state, which is described as one of the safe states, to be a gateway to the fragmentation of Sudan.”
As previously reported by Radio Dabanga, many educators have expressed their apprehensions regarding the re-opening of schools and universities, due to schools turning into shelter centres and the continued non-payment of teachers since the outbreak of the war.