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Violent attacks on schools surge fourfold in Sudan

May 28, 2024 at 10:00 am

Young Sudanese refugees attend an Arabic lesson at the Al-Tadamoun school in the Farchana refugee camp, on April 8, 2024. [JORIS BOLOMEY/AFP via Getty Images]

The number of violent attacks on schools and education in Sudan has increased fourfold since the start of the conflict in April last year with 88 reports of violent incidents and most schools now closed, according to Save the Children analysis released today.

These incidents include air strikes on schools resulting in the killing and injury of students and teachers, torturing of teachers, killing and abduction of teachers and sexual violence against students inside education facilities. Other incidents included occupation of schools by armed groups, use of schools as weapons storage facilities and battles fought on education premises.

The analysis comes as the Education Cluster —a group of aid agencies who work on education in Sudan— warns that the country is on the brink of the worst education crisis in the world, with the majority of schools closed, leaving more than 18 million children of the country’s estimated 22 million children out of school for over a year now.

For the analysis, Save the Children reviewed individual incidents of armed attacks or confrontations affecting education reported in the Armed Conflict Location & Event Database (ACLED) between April 2023 and April 2024 across Sudan and saw an alarming rise in attacks.  Twenty-three such incidents were recorded by ACLED in the 12 months before the conflict.

The number of violent attacks on schools and education in Africa has been on the rise. In February, a similar analysis by Save the Children ahead of the 37th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, showed a rise in violence affecting schools, teachers and learners across Africa Union countries, with 411 cases reported, representing a 20 per cent jump in 2023.

Read: UN says half of Sudan population needs humanitarian aid

In light of this trend, Save the Children is calling on leaders in Sudan and across the African Union to make schools safe places for children, having chosen education as “AU theme for 2024”, and committed to building resilient education systems for increased access to inclusive, lifelong, quality and relevant learning in Africa.

Hadeer, 13, was displaced with her family from Omdurman, Khartoum state, to Atbara, about 320 kilometres northeast. She has three younger siblings. Her aunt and uncle were killed, and her nieces fled Sudan. Her family lost contact with her father in the chaos of the conflict. Until Save the Children built a school in the camp for displaced people in Atbara, she never thought she would be able to study again.

She said: “I wish to be an architect when I grow up. At home we had facilities and electricity, and I could walk [to school] and study safely. But here I feel scared when I walk in the streets, not like there [home].”

“It’s not just children’s lives that are on the line, but also their futures. Millions of children continue to face disruptions to their education with their schools destroyed by bombs, taken over as shelters for displaced families, or learning stopped as children flee,” Dr Arif Noor, Country Director for Save the Children in Sudan, said.

Sudan is facing one of the largest unfolding crises globally. About 25 million people, or half of the country’s population, need humanitarian assistance, according to UN OCHA.

The names of children have been changed to protect their identities.