Beyond separate mentions and stipulations about the right of persons with disabilities, gender, cultural and ethnic minorities to access education, none of the documents reviewed seem to attempt to provide a comprehensive definition of inclusive education or special educational needs. Special Education departments have been created in State Ministries of General Education. Their approach aims to reach all children of eligible age without discrimination and marginalized or vulnerable population groups, including IDPs, nomadic students, children in conflict-affected regions and orphans.
Article 15 of the Education Law (2001) states that the educational system is divided into two: 1) the sequential/structured system (al-ta’leem al-nethami), which includes basic and secondary education and 2) the non-sequential/non-structural system (al-ta’leem ghayr al-marhali), which includes Quranic schools, vocational training as well as education for gifted students and students with disabilities.
The National Law for Persons with Disability (2017) (link not available) stipulates the right for persons with disabilities to access quality education and in ways suitable to their type of disability and in ways that facilitate fulfilling the objective of integration. In Article 4 (a, c, d) the law also highlights the need for students with special needs to be integrated across all educational levels of public education. Similarly, in Article 49(1) of the Law of the Child (2010) states that children with disabilities need to be integrated in the various levels of education based on their disability (p. 20).
Article 49(3) of the Law of the Child (2010) also states that special education classes or schools could be established to teach students with disabilities based on their abilities and their readiness (in line with conditions and criteria established by the Minister of Education).
Sudan has neither notified of succession, nor accepted nor ratified the Convention against Discrimination in Education, but it ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1986.
Article 31 of the 2005 Interim National Constitution states that “[…] all persons are equal before the law and are entitled without discrimination, as to race, colour, sex, language, religious creed, political opinion, or ethnic
origin, to the equal protection of the law.’ Article 44 of the Constitution (2005) states that “education is a right for every citizen and the State shall provide access to education without discrimination as to reli1gion, race, ethnicity, gender or disability” and that “Primary education is compulsory and the State shall provide it free” (p. 21). Article 13(1a) also stipulates that “the State shall promote education at all levels all over the Sudan and shall ensure free and compulsory education at the primary level and in illiteracy eradication programmes” (p. 13). In this regard, Article 13 of the Education Law (2001) states that each Sudanese child who turns 6 years old has the right to basic education.
The Ministry of General Education (MGE) Interim Basic Education Strategy (iBES) 2012- 2016 aimed to expand quality education access. Priorities in the strategy included improved access, consistent delivery of quality education, and overall systems strengthening.
A new Education Sector Strategic Plan as approved in January 2019. The foundation of the Plan is the Education Sector Analysis (ESA) which covered pre-school, basic education and secondary (academic as well as technical and vocational wings). One of the priorities of the new Education Sector Strategic Plan 2018-2023 consists in Increasing access to and equity in formal basic education. It expected outcomes are: increased Gross Intake Rate to basic education; reduced disparity between rural/urban and boys/girls GER; expanding opportunities in government basic schools. The strategies to achieve these outcomes are Support to vulnerable groups including refugee host communities Provide incentives for teachers including gender-based interventions for girls (p. 51).
Sudan’s signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2009. Article 28(1) of the Law of the Child (2010) states that children with disabilities have the right to learn and Article 28(3) stipulates that the state is to ensure that secondary education in its public schools is offered for free for orphans, disabled, poor and children with no known parents.
Among international civil society actors active in Sudan is ADD International, which had a pilot programme in the Gadarif province which focused on 12 public schools and 150 children with disabilities and special needs. The programme focused on improving the dropout rates and ensuring that students with disabilities have a seat in these schools. In collaboration and with support from the European Union and ADD International, the Ministry of Education organized workshops to discuss potential means of collaboration to improve prospects of making education more inclusive for children with disabilities. This included the agreement for the need to creating more awareness by launching public awareness campaigns in various governorates about the needs and potential contributions of children with disabilities.
Among the actions to achieve the outcomes of the new education sector strategic plan the following is mentioned, i.e. “Develop and implement approaches to support children with learning difficulties”. “The plan will support the development of a framework for supporting learners with learning difficulties including learners with special needs. In addition to the provision of learner-friendly physical environment, the plan will ensure that psychosocial support is extended to learners in need to enhance their performance in school".
Sudan has neither signed, ratified nor acceded the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). However, one of the key policies related to empowering girls and women in education is the National Policy for Girls’ Education (2007). In addition, the National strategy (2007-2031) outlines several strategic programmatic areas that aim to enhance girl education. Reflecting those priorities, a Girls’ Education Department was established in 2000 and its key responsibilities are outlined in Sudan’s 5-year plan (2012-2016).
NGOs and international organisations play a crucial role in improving learning environments. With UNICEF support, gender-sensitive water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) packages in schools contributed to the retention of adolescent girls. 280 schools were assisted to develop school improvement plans through the establishment of committees and training of 432 committee members (41 percent female). UNICEF helped to improve 147 schools through the construction and rehabilitation of 493 classrooms and construction of 117 latrines. The Labena Association for Women Capacity Building and Development worked on educating 44,000 girls in various provinces as well as provided support to illiteracy eradication programmes, adult education as well as support for pre-school nurseries. Furthermore, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, some 167 schools were provided with access to improved sanitation facilities. A total of 75,000 students (35,226 boys and 39,774 girls) gained access to gender sensitive and child-friendly latrines, a major contributing factor to girls’ enrolment and retention. Finally, in terms of illiteracy, National Union for Sudanese Women has helped promoting literacy for women as well as launch several programs such as ‘Read for All’ (Iqraa lil-jamee’); the festival advocating for girls’ education under the motto “teach a girl, build a nation”; the Fatima Talib award for illiteracy eradication; as well as programs and course to teach life skills to girls (Salah & Khalifa, 2018, p. 19).
In this respect, the new plan “will support the connection of water and facilitate the construction of sanitation facilities in schools that do not have any. (…) [it] will also cover the provision of sanitary towels to girls to encourage their participation in school activities during their menstruation” and “Develop and implement a policy on school children Feeding and support to vulnerable children”.
Sudan raised the reservations on Article 11 (6) (regarding pregnancy before completing education) and Article 21 (2) (regarding child marriage) of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) in that it does not consider itself bound by those articles.
Homosexuality is unacceptable religiously and socially (p. 39).
Ethnic and linguistic groups
The official education language is Arabic, from basic education upwards. Among Sudan’s tribes, more than 100 dialects are spoken. “Census information distinguishes three main racial groups: Nilotic, Nilo-Hamitic/Sudanese and Arab, with more than 115 local dialects among them. Arabic is the main language of the country (…) and English is the second language and is widely used as a medium of instruction, especially at the post-graduate education level. Another source describes 100 diverse dialects of Nilo-Hamitic, Sudanic languages, especially among the northern Nubians, and in Darfur, Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile and Eastern Sudan region”. Sudan was among 143 states that voted in favor of adopting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Article 8 of the Sudanese Constitution (2005) states that “all indigenous languages of Sudan are national languages and shall be respected, developed and promoted. […] Arabic, as a major language at the national level and English shall be the […] languages of instruction for higher education” (p. 12). It also states that “there shall be no discrimination against the use of either Arabic or English at any level of government or stage of education” (p. 13).
That said, under the general principles outlined in the Law of the Child (2010), Article 2(f) states that children belonging to ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities have the right to celebrate their culture and to publicly announce their religion and be able to practice it as well as using their language.
Education in conflict areas and displaced students
Sudan acceded to the Convention (in 1974) and protocol (1974) relating to the status of refugees. In parallel, Article 44(1) of the Law of the Child (2010) stipulates that the concerned agencies/entities managing release and re-integration of children are to design programs that help release children (in collaboration with concerned entities, such as the military, security bodies, and militant groups) and work to help integrate those children both socially and economically in society. The concerned are to pay special attention to released children, especially those with disabilities during their time in these release and rehabilitation centers (p. 18).
Local and national civil society organizations such as Mabadon along with League of Arab States helped establish schools to educate internally displaced children. Along with UNICEF as well, there have been efforts to rehabilitate some schools damaged by armed conflicts in Sudan. Finally, the mission of the African Union in collaboration with the League of Arab States along with local organizations such as the Labena association for women capacity building and development also significantly contributed to establishing schools for internally displaced persons living in camps in Darfur (p. 18).
Poverty and rural/remote areas
The National Union for Sudanese Women has helped through several school rehabilitation programmes to work on 252 programmes that targeted especially poor male and female students in rural areas. Efforts included building new classes; ensuring there are adequate seating arrangements; building suitable bathrooms; installing clean water storage equipment; and supplying these students with free school uniforms and other essential school supplies. The UN has also been involved in funding and implementing nutrition programmes in school to help ensure poor students and their families are attracted by the prospects of having a good meal and also to retain them in school. This initiative is a result of the joint effort of WFP, the Ministry of Education and the community around the school. This meal has proven to be a major incentive for families to send their children to school and keep them there. Since the beginning of 2017, the UN provided school meals to over 1 million students in 11 states across the country, including 28,000 students in South Kordofan state, one of those worst-affected by conflict, which has resulted in the displacement of thousands of people (p. 19).
Finally, in Kassala and Red Sea state, take-home rations targeting the most vulnerable girl students have been supporting their continued commitment to education.
Through the World Bank-supported Basic Education Recovery Project, the government is making changes to its education system to improve the learning environment in several remote areas. The new educations sector plan “will also support the establishment of low-cost boarding facilities to accommodate children in middle and upper grades of basic education. The activity will cover the construction of boarding facilities in existing schools and where necessary the complete construction of new schools. The activity will also support equipment of the boarding facilities.” (p. 73)
Article 30 of the Law of the Child (2010) stipulates that gifted students can be awarded for their academic as well as their cultural and artistic creative achievements.
Part of the direction to raise the status of special needs education is reflected in the decision to upgrade the status of the special education unit to become a full-fledged department under the Ministry of Education and staffing it with those who have the needed skills and expertise.
The Education Act (2001) specifies the functions and responsibilities of the federal and state ministries of education while also providing a regulatory framework for the management of various national councils. The federal government, through its Federal Ministry of Education, is responsible for oversight in the sector and for the development and maintenance of standards including curriculum development and mobilization of resources.
At the state level, educational boards, under the state ministries of education, organize and coordinate educational activities. The responsibility of education management in Sudan is thus shared between the federal, state and locality levels of government. At all levels, Non-Government actors contribute to the provision of education alongside the Government.
According to the new Education Sector Strategic plan, “the National Education Sector Coordination Framework was established to guide the development and implementation of the iBES and has been steering the implementation of the interim sector plan. The framework brings together a National Steering Committee (NSC); Federal Technical Committee (NTC) and eighteen State Technical Committees (STC). The framework has been useful in coordinating the implementation of education programs and are retained to oversee implementation of the 2018-2022 plan.”
The Education Coordination Group (ECG) comprises representatives of government ministries, donors, international development partners, civil society and local and international Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) with leadership from the Federal Ministry of Education. The Education Partners’ Group (EPG) includes local representatives from bilateral and multilateral development partners and other donors. The EPG will promote coordinated interaction between partners and government and provide support for implementation and monitoring of the ESSP
through mechanisms like Joint Sector Reviews (JSR). The EPG will also support resource mobilization for the implementation of the priorities identified in the ESSP. A Coordinating Agency is appointed to strengthen the communication link between the MoE, ECG and the EPG to facilitate the implementation of the iBES.
In response to emergencies in Sudan, UNICEF, in partnership with more than 30 local and international CSOs and in collaboration with the Ministry of Education supported 99,080 children in humanitarian situations to access formal and non-formal education in child-friendly learning environments. UNICEF constructed and rehabilitated 725 temporary and semi-permanent classrooms, including teacher’s offices and gender-sensitive toilets. Teaching, learning, and recreational materials were provided to 195,162 emergency-affected children. Further, 4,565 conflict-affected children were supported to take grade 8 examinations to complete basic education. At last, UNICEF will provide technical leadership to advance an integrated approach and link humanitarian with development aid.
Learning curriculum and curriculum
The Ministry of Education’s department for special needs education prepared and printed basic educational curricula with the Braille method and translated all basic and secondary education curricula to audio form in collaboration with the Sudanese Association for the Blind. A sign language dictionary was also developed in collaboration with UNESCO. Il also developed sign language guidelines to teach those suffering deafness or weak hearing as well as developing a technical guidebook to administer exams for basic education in 2018 (Republic of Sudan, 2018, link not available).
UNICEF in partnership with the Ministry of Education and implementing partners conducted two rounds of community-driven ‘come to school’ campaigns in localities with low enrolment in 12 states. Some 432,151 children were reached with teaching and learning materials and/or other supplies supporting their school enrolments, such as uniforms and dignity kits. Of the total number of children reached, 128,150 vulnerable girls received full social assistance packages, including school uniforms and/or dignity kits. Educational materials and social assistance helped to offset poor families’ schooling costs and encouraged enrolment and retention, especially among girls. Thanks to the support of UNICEF, some 1,000 sign-language dictionaries for children with hearing-impairment were printed.
Finally, the Sudanese Zakat agency (Diwan al-Zakah) supports disadvantaged groups by offering them equipment free of charge including wheelchairs, sticks, walkers as well as hearing aids. It also finances operations for those with hearing difficulties. It also offered educational resources and materials to the blind, including computers and audio programmes to facilitate their learning. It also offers other educational materials to those with mental disabilities.
The new education sector foresees the development of several activities in relation to curriculum and learning materials.
In 2017-2018, the Ministry of Education’s department of special education offered teacher training programmes on special education, which covered three provinces and included training 254 teachers as well as producing 3 manuals on teaching for students with disabilities and learning difficulties (Republic of Sudan, 2018, link not available).
To improve learning outcomes, UNICEF supported capacity building for teachers by providing in-service teacher training for 11,446 primary school teachers to enhance skills in using learner-centered teaching approaches. The 2018 UNICEF target was 6,000 teachers to be trained; thus achieving over 190 percent against the target, and 63.6 per cent of the 2018–2021 CP target of 18,000 teachers. The target was exceeded thanks to additional teacher training funds received from KFW, the EU, emergency resources and the Thematic Fund, and the focus on short, cost-effective courses.
In parallel, the Ministry of Education, with UNICEF support, revised the learner-centered training manual and equipped 30 trainers to deliver training using the revised manual. In 2018, UNICEF continued to support inclusive education by supporting the capacity building of teachers to meet their needs. 30 master trainers were taught how to use the dictionary to make teaching and learning inclusive of children with disabilities.
The new education sector plan “will support the development of a comprehensive policy framework for the recruitment and deployment of teachers. (…) In the 2018-2022 period, there is need to put to use the data collected for the setup of a comprehensive Teacher Management Information System to enhance the management (registration, recruitment, training and retirement) of teachers in the country” (p. 79).
Sudan has no national education monitoring report. Further, it was unclear from all the available laws and documents reviewed what types of monitoring and reporting are in place regarding inclusive education in Sudan. The new education sector strategic plan foresees a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation framework for education.