Beyond separate mentions and stipulations about the rights of persons with disabilities, different genders, and cultural and ethnic minorities to access education, none of the documents reviewed provide a comprehensive definition of inclusive education or special education 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 notably marginalized or vulnerable population groups, including internally displaced persons, nomadic students, children in conflict-affected regions and orphans.
Article 15 of the 2001 Education Law states that the education system is divided into two parts: 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, and education for gifted students and students with disabilities.
The 2017 National Law for Persons with Disability lays down the right for persons with disabilities to access quality education in ways that are suitable to their type of disability and that facilitate fulfilling the objective of integration. In Article 4, the law also highlights the need for students with special needs to be integrated across all levels of public education. Similarly, Article 49(1) of the 2010 Child Act states that children with disabilities need to be integrated into the various levels of education based on their disability.
Article 49(3) of the Child Act also states that special education classes or schools may 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 2005 Constitution states that ‘education is a right for every citizen and the State shall provide access to education without discrimination as to religion, race, ethnicity, gender or disability’ and that ‘Primary education is compulsory and the State shall provide it free.’ Article 13(1a) 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.’ In this regard, Article 13 of the 2001 Education Law states that every Sudanese child who turns 6 years old has the right to basic education.
The Ministry of General Education’s 2012–16 Interim Basic Education Strategy aimed to expand access to quality education. Priorities of the strategy included improved access, consistent delivery of quality education and overall strengthening of systems.
A new education sector strategic plan was approved in January 2019. The foundation of the plan was an education sector analysis that covered preschool, basic and secondary (academic as well as technical and vocational) education. One of the priorities of the 2018–23 education sector strategic plan consists in increasing access to and equity in formal basic education. Its expected outcomes are: an increased gross intake rate in basic education; reduced disparity between rural and urban and between boys and girls; and expanding opportunities in government basic schools. The strategies to achieve these outcomes including support to vulnerable groups, including refugee host communities, and the provision of incentives for teachers, including gender-based interventions for girls.
Sudan signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009. Article 28(1) of the 2010 Child Act 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 free for orphans, students who are disabled or poor, and children with no known parents.
Among international civil society actors active in Sudan is ADD International, which led a pilot programme in the Gadarif province that focused on 12 public schools and 150 children with disabilities and special needs. The programme focused on improving dropout rates and ensuring that students with disabilities had a seat in these schools. In collaboration with, and with support from, the European Union and ADD International, the Ministry of Education organized workshops to discuss potential means of collaboration to make education more inclusive for children with disabilities. This included an agreement on the need to create 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 2018–23 education sector strategic plan, the plan mentions the intentions to ‘[d]evelop and implement approaches to support children with learning difficulties’ and ‘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, nor ratified nor acceded to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. However, the 2007 National Policy for Girls’ Education is a key policy related to empowering girls and women in education. In addition, the 2007–31 national strategy outlines several strategic programmatic areas that aim to enhance girls’ education. Reflecting those priorities, a Girls’ Education Department was established in 2000, and its key responsibilities are outlined in Sudan’s 2012–16 five-year plan.
Non-government and international organizations play a crucial role in improving learning environments. With UNICEF support, gender-sensitive water, sanitation and hygiene packages provided in schools contributed to the retention of adolescent girls. In addition, 280 schools were assisted to develop school improvement plans through the establishment of committees and training of 432 committee members (of whom 41% were 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 and provided support to illiteracy eradication programmes, adult education and preschool 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, the National Union for Sudanese Women has helped promote literacy for women as well as launched several programmes such as Read For All (‘Iqraa lil-jamee’); a festival advocating for girls’ education under the motto ‘Teach a girl, build a nation’; the Fatima Talib Award for illiteracy eradication; and programmes and courses to teach life skills to girls.
The 2018–23 education sector strategic 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 “[d]evelop and implement a policy on school children Feeding and support to vulnerable children’.
Sudan raised 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 in that it does not consider itself bound by those articles.
Homosexuality is not accepted religiously or socially.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
The official education language is Arabic from basic education upwards. Among Sudan’s tribes, more than 100 dialects are spoken. According to UNICEF: ‘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, the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile and the Eastern Sudan region. Sudan was among 143 states that voted in favour of adopting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Article 8 of the 2005 Constitution 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.’ 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.’
That said, under the general principles outlined in the 2010 Child Act, Article 2(f) states that children belonging to ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities have the right to celebrate their culture, to publicly announce and practise their religion and to use their language.
Conflict areas and displaced students
Sudan acceded to the Convention Related to the Status of Refugees and its Protocol in 1974. In parallel, Article 44(1) of the 2010 Child Act stipulates that the concerned agencies/entities managing release and re-integration of children are to design programmes 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 into society, both socially and economically. These agencies/entities are to pay special attention to released children, especially those with disabilities, during their time in these release and rehabilitation centres.
Local and national civil society organizations such as Mabadon along with the League of Arab States have helped establish schools to educate internally displaced children. With the help of UNICEF as well, there have been efforts to rehabilitate some schools damaged by armed conflicts in Sudan. Finally, 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, have also contributed significantly to establishing schools for internally displaced persons living in camps in Darfur.
Poverty and rural/remote areas
The National Union for Sudanese Women has contributed to work on 252 school rehabilitation programmes that targeted poor male and female students in rural areas. Efforts included building new classes; ensuring 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 United Nations has also been involved in funding and implementing nutrition programmes in schools to attract poor students and their families and to retain these students in school. This initiative is a result of a joint effort of the World Food Programme, the Ministry of Education and the communities around the schools. The meal programme has proven to be a major incentive for families to send their children to school and keep them there. In 2017, the United Nations 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.
Finally, in Kassala and Red Sea states, 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 2018–23 education 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.’
Article 30 of the 2010 Child Act 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 to staff it with those who have the needed skills and expertise.
The 2001 Education Act 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, education boards, under the state ministries of education, organize and coordinate education activities. The responsibility of education management in Sudan is thus shared between the federal, state and local levels of government. At all levels, non-government actors contribute to the provision of education alongside the government.
According to the 2018–23 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 comprises representatives of government ministries, donors, international development partners, civil society and local and international non-government organizations with leadership from the Federal Ministry of Education. The Education Partners’ Group includes local representatives from bilateral and multilateral development partners and other donors and is intended to promote coordinated interaction between partners and government and provide support for the implementation and monitoring of the education sector strategic plan through mechanisms such as joint sector reviews. The Education Partners’ Group will also support resource mobilization for the implementation of the priorities identified in the education sector strategic plan. A coordinating agency is appointed to strengthen the communication link between the Ministry of Education, the Education Coordination Group and the Education Partners’ Group to facilitate the implementation of the iBES.
In response to emergencies in Sudan, UNICEF, in partnership with more than 30 local and international civil society organizations 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 teachers’ offices and gender-sensitive toilets. Teaching, learning and recreational materials were provided to 195,162 emergency-affected children. Furthermore, 4,565 conflict-affected children were supported to take grade 8 examinations to complete basic education. Finally, UNICEF will provide technical leadership to advance an integrated approach and link humanitarian with development aid.
Curriculum and learning materials
The Ministry of Education’s department for special needs education prepared and printed basic education 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. The ministry also developed sign language guidelines to teach deaf or hearing-impaired students as well as a technical guidebook to administer exams for basic education in 2018.
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 and hearing aids. It also finances operations for those with hearing difficulties; offered educational resources and materials to the blind, including computers and audio programmes to facilitate their learning; and offers other educational materials to those with mental disabilities.
The 2018–23 education sector plan foresees the development of several activities in relation to curriculum and learning materials.
In 2017–18, the Ministry of Education’s department of special education offered teacher training programmes on special education that covered 3 provinces and trained 254 teachers, as well as producing 3 manuals on teaching for students with disabilities and learning difficulties.
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-centred teaching approaches. The 2018 UNICEF target was 6,000 teachers to be trained; thus, the programme achieved over 190% against the target and 63.6% of the 2018–21 target of 18,000 teachers. The target was exceeded thanks to additional teacher training funds received from the KfW, the European Union, 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-centred 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. Thirty master trainers were taught how to use the dictionary to make teaching and learning inclusive of children with disabilities.
The 2018–23 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.’
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.