One of the classrooms at the Charity School in Karma, Sudan (Al Jazeera)

Karma - Northern Sudan -

In the early morning hours, children from the town of Wadi Al-Khalil make their way to the charity school, fighting off the remains of drowsiness and cold bites on their thin bodies.

Children in the street, with their colorful uniforms and small bags, paint a picture of the community’s defiant response to the reality of the absence of formal formal education imposed by the repercussions of the war between the Sudanese army forces and the Rapid Support militants in the capital, Khartoum, and its cities since last April 15, which paralyzed the educational process.

The charity school is only one of the community initiatives behind which a group of volunteers, male and female, from the region or those displaced from Khartoum due to war conditions, in addition to a number of retired teachers, stands behind it.

In the small “Wadi Al-Khalil” area of ​​Al-Barqiq locality in the northern state, students receive their lessons in a headquarters located in the middle of the residential area, which is called the “center,” as it includes, in addition to education, therapeutic services and vocational and religious courses.

It is a building equipped to host all community support activities.

Its owner donated it as a free charitable endowment to his family in the valley and nearby areas.

A charitable school in the Hebron Valley is a societal challenge to the reality of the absence of formal education in light of the war (Al Jazeera)

Traces of war besieged

Volunteer Rawan, Awad, expressed to Al Jazeera Net her great enthusiasm to participate with the center’s team in a mission that she considers sacred, related to compensating students for the loss of an entire academic year and reducing the damage resulting from school closures.

Rawan studied architecture at the University of Medical Sciences in Khartoum, and had just begun her search for a suitable job before the war cut her off and forced her to move to the land of her ancestors.

The Center holds regular courses for students in the pre-school stage and for adolescents and young men in the middle and secondary levels.

Rawan says that the current course includes 120 students in the three stages.

It is an advanced stage compared to the first stage, which included only 64 students. Students in this course receive lessons in 4 main subjects: Arabic, English, mathematics, and Islamic education.

Rawan, who along with another colleague teaches English, adds that the number of teaching staff has increased to 9 volunteer teachers in this course.

In contrast to this young woman with little experience in the field of teaching, the arts student at the University of Khartoum, Reem Al-Qenawi, worked for periods in the fields of formal education at the kindergarten level, basic schools, and adult literacy, from her studies in the secondary stage until her university studies.

She also left her university seats and the teacher’s chalk in schools after the outbreak of war, and was forced to flee to the summer town of Wadi Khalil.

Al-Qenawy says that she "has a strong passion for teaching and transferring science and knowledge to students since her young age."

She added, to Al Jazeera Net, that she did not hesitate much to join the center's volunteer team.

She explained that the experience added a lot of experience and knowledge to her, and strengthened her feelings of spiritual stability and self-satisfaction amid the difficult conditions of displacement.

The current training experience, free from the restrictions of the government curriculum, has enabled her to put her own ideas in the field into practice and test their results on the ground.

This is something that was not possible in her previous work as a collaborator and was restricted by rigid teaching methods and methods, as she put it.

As for Manasek Awad Qenawi, a mother of an eight-year-old girl, her motivation to participate with the team of volunteers was the feelings of anxiety that struck her after discovering that her young daughter had gradually begun to forget the principles of reading, writing, and the basic skills of the educational process.

Based on her experience as a former kindergarten teacher, she noticed that play areas during this long, open holiday had greatly expanded, and children lacked the time and spatial spaces to receive education.

Manasek says that the courses offered by the center contribute to refreshing students’ memories and qualifying them to re-engage in formal education tracks when regular school resumes.

Children in Wadi Khalil, Sudan, leave voluntary classes to make up for what they missed due to the war (Al Jazeera)

Difficulties and challenges

The war, which broke out in the center of power in the capital, Khartoum, caused the educational process to completely stop throughout the country.

It is the second closure of its kind in the history of the Sudanese educational process, as the Sudanese government suspended studies for 6 months during the June 1967 war between the Arab armies and Israel, due to fears of the expansion of the Israeli aggression into the territory of Sudan.

But the disruption this time was coercive, long-term, and open-ended without a declared end, and it caused students at all levels of study to lose an entire academic year.

Al-Waleed Muhammad Ali, a teacher at Karma Educational Unit schools, says that in theory it was possible to contain the situation and reduce its losses by resorting to alternative means such as distance education or continuing study in other states while integrating students coming from Khartoum.

He adds that the weak infrastructure in the field of communications technology in the states and rural areas prevented the adoption of this advanced system.

Other factors also contributed to delaying the issuance of government decisions to resume school in a number of states.

At the forefront of which is the large number of students coming from Khartoum (250 thousand students) in the northern state alone.

This is a huge number that is difficult to absorb and integrate without preparations and preparations related to providing study materials such as additional books, chairs and classrooms, and expanding the number of schools and teaching staff.

Another factor is that many schools in the states have already become shelter centers for displaced people displaced by the war.

In addition to all of this, the fluctuation of data and speculation regarding the dates for the end of military operations, which confuses decision-making regarding the resumption of studies in the states at the appropriate time and thus the failure of intentions to save the academic year for students.

Pre-war tremors

The Alwaleed teacher explains to Al Jazeera Net that the educational process was not going well even before the outbreak of the last war, as the deep disagreements and divisions and the state of chaos that accompanied the period of popular unrest and the three transitional governments cast their shadows on academic stability between 2019 and 2022.

Al-Waleed points out that education experts consider 210 days of continuous work a standard for the success of the academic year at the highest level, and 170 days at the average level.

However, the average days schools worked during that period did not exceed 120 days in many cases.

The educational process was one of the victims of the chaos of the transitional government, just as it is today a victim of the Khartoum War, he said.

With the emergence of signals from officials in the Northern State government about the issuance of an imminent decision to resume studies in the three stages, the movement of committees and civil and governmental organizations became active to provide support and support for the resumption of a new academic year and provide the elements for success, continuity, and achieving academic stability.

Jamal Abbas from the Education Development Committee in the Karma Administrative Unit said that the committee, in cooperation with the local Ministry of Education, organized a training course with the participation of 128 trainees, including principals, administrative mentors, and deputies of primary and middle schools, with the aim of qualifying them in the administrative and technical fields and the field of interim examinations.

Source: Al Jazeera