A shocking statistic published by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) confirmed that 6.9 million Sudanese children do not attend school. This means that one out of every three school-aged children in the country does not receive an education, while another 12 million children do not receive a quality education. The reasons for this are multiple, including the lack of teachers and the degradation of infrastructure. UNICEF has called for securing an environment that enables children to receive an education to achieve their dreams and aspirations.
The phenomenon of school dropouts has a long history in Sudan, leading to the spread of illiteracy among more than 30 per cent of the total population of about 40 million people.
In its statistics, the international organisation confirmed: "The school is not a place for teaching young people the basics of reading, writing and mathematics, but rather a place for learning social skills and having fun in a safe environment, and it also protects children from the surrounding physical dangers, including mistreatment, exposure to exploitation, and recruitment into militant groups. Moreover, schools provide psychological and social support, which makes them life-saving for many children."
Thirteen-year-old child Babiker is one of the millions of Sudanese children who do not attend school. He says that he only studied until the third grade of primary school, then left school for work. Babiker now works in the car cleaning profession to earn money to support his family.
Babiker shared that he leaves home early in the morning with his mother, who sells tea in the capital, Khartoum, while he cleans cars to make a living. However, he expressed that he is fully prepared to return to school if the conditions are suitable and feels very sad when he sees his peers going to school while he works on the streets.
UNICEF confirms that Sudanese children leave school as a natural result of the worsening social and economic situation, recurrence of conflicts and the closures of schools for long periods due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, stressing that all of this reduces the chances of children returning to school.
UNICEF Representative in Sudan Mandeep O'Brien says: "No country can bear the burden of not knowing a third of its school-age children to have no literacy, numeracy or digital skills. Education is not just a right, it is also a lifeline."