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Education in Sudan - An Overview

Post independence, the public and private education system in Sudan was designed to produce professionals and civil servants who may serve for colonial administration. The system was not oriented to provide education to Sudanese people. The course curriculum was western and distribution of facilities etc was lenient towards administration. Schools were mainly concentrated in Khartoum and other urban locations. This concentration was most marked beyond the four-year primary schools, where instruction was in the vernacular.

There were insufficient number of school buildings in northern Sudan but education in south was much poorer. Education in south was mainly left over mission schools where the level of instruction was not rich. The government has given the responsibilities to mission schools in return of funds. Later the civil war and the ouster of all foreign missionaries from the region in February 1964 almost vanished the education opportunities for people living in Southern Sudan.

Since World War II the demand for education increased in Sudan. In 1956, during the historic times of independence, education was only accountable for 15.5% of Sudanese budget. There were 1778 primary schools, 108 intermediate schools, and 49 government secondary schools. A total of 208668 students were enrolled in primary schools, and 14632 in secondary schools. The students’ enrollment in government secondary schools was 5423.  The University of Khartoum was main center for providing higher education. 1000 students were enrolled in the university.

The adult literacy rate in 1956 was 22.9%, and, despite the efforts of successive governments, by 1990 it had risen only to about 30% in the face of a rapidly expanding population. Leaving behind primary schools the teaching curriculum was mainly based on British model of education. Students were taught and provided instructions in Arabic and English in primary schools, the medium of instruction in University of Khartoum was English. There were shortage of teachers in the country while education was higher; the government has appointed foreign teachers on higher wages.

In 1969, the Nimeiri-led government came into power and considered the education system as inadequate to teach local Sudanese. Further an extensive restructuring of education was ordered. Six year elementary education made compulsory. Emphasis was also given to vocational and technical education at all levels. Previously, primary and intermediate schools had been preludes to secondary training, and secondary schools prepared students for the university. The system produced some well- trained university graduates, but technical education was still inadequate.

By 1970s the education system in Sudan was almost organized. Pre primary schools were mainly established in urban areas. The basic education system consisted of 6 years primary school, followed by 3-year junior secondary schools. At secondary level education was available through three types of schools- the three-year upper secondary, which prepared students for higher education; commercial and agricultural technical schools; and teacher-training secondary schools designed to prepare primary-school teachers.

Post secondary schools included universities, higher technical schools, and intermediate teacher-training schools for junior secondary teachers, and higher teacher training schools for upper-secondary teachers.

In 1980s there were about 5400 primary schools in the country, less than 14% were located in the southern Sudan. In the early 1980s, the number of junior (also called general) secondary schools was a little more than one-fifth the number of primary schools. In 1980s there were 190 upper secondary schools. About 6.5 percent of all general secondary schools were in the south until 1983. Though government has encouraged technical education despite there were only 30 technical schools in the country in 1980s.

The educational reforms took place in Sudan in 1990 when General Bashir came into power. He announced sweeping reforms in Sudanese education in September 1990. He allocated Sd400 million for the academic year 1990-91 to carry out these reforms and promised to double the sum if the current education system could be changed to meet the needs of Sudan.

The fresh education viewpoint was to present a frame of reference for the reforms. Education was to be based on the permanence of human nature, religious values, and physical nature. This was to be consummate by a Muslim curriculum, which in all schools, colleges, and universities would consist of two parts: an obligatory and an optional course of study.

The obligatory course to be studied by every student based on revealed knowledge concerning all disciplines. All the indispensable elements of the obligatory course would be drawn from the Quran and the recognized books of the hadith.

The optional course of study allows the student to choose definite specializations according to individual aptitudes and interests.

For university admission in Sudan membership in the Popular Defence Forces, a paramilitary body allied to the National Islamic Front is compulsory. By early 1991, Bashir announced that the number of university students be doubled and that Arabic replaces English as the language of instruction in universities.

Sudan joined UNESCO on November 26, 1947. In spite of the disagreements the country has gone through, much effort has been made in the field of education and in favor of peace and development. School materials were distributed to children victims of the war. At the end of 2006, a UNESCO office has been established in Sudan with main premises in Khartoum and an antenna in Juba within the cluster coverage of the UNESCO Office in Cairo, Egypt. It will have as its major responsibility cooperation with the UN Country Team for Sudan and coordination of strategies and actions.

The UNESCO Institute for Statistics has conducted detailed study on education and literacy scenario in Sudan. For full data, click here.
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