[Documents menu] Documents menu

The Plight Of Learners In Sudan

By Yahya el Hassan, Panafrican News Agency, 7 December 2000

Khartoum—After harvest is over, depending on the type of crop, the villagers form a delegation and troop to Khartoum with a list of complaints.

The list usually include the unfavourable condition of the local clinic, the ineffective irrigation pump, lack of drinking water or the poor performance of the municipal authority.

But in recent years a new item has been added: delays in the payment of teachers’ salaries accumulated over several months.

To pacify them, the local authority dishes out token fees to keep school bells ringing.

But the proud teachers do not always accept to live on these handouts and opt for strikes like employees in other sectors.

Reports from Khartoum indicate that teachers in Sinnar and Dewaim (central Sudan) and Genaina and Fashir (western Sudan) have embarked on an indefinite strike to back up their demands for the payment of salary arrears.

The secretary in charge of social and financial affairs in the Teachers Federation, Bashir Abdulghani, told reporters that his colleagues in those regions have stopped working after they lost hope in payment of their arrears, despite repeated promises from concerned authorities.

Abdulghani warned that the federation was planning a countrywide strike in case the teachers’ arrears are not paid.

He urged the central government to fulfil its repeated promises to pay teachers.

At one stage, the salaries of teachers and other workers became the responsibility of the local governments. But due to poor resources, the municipalities failed to fulfil this requirement and the federal administration agreed to take responsibility for teachers pay.

Faced with the crisis, central fiscal authorities concede that teachers were underpaid but argue that they do not have enough resources to pay 138,265 teachers on time and simultaneously cater for their normal professional career and training.

According to statistics from the ministry of education, out of 117,151 teachers at the primary level only 43 percent had received professional training and out of 21,114 secondary school teachers, barely 39 percent had had some form of training.

To tackle the situation in primary education, the ministry of higher education has devised a programme of gradually enrolling all teachers in the country’s institutions of education to obtain bachelors degrees.

The financial inability also reflects on pupil intake as statistics show that out of a targeted population of 6.6 million, only 3.13 million pupils in the 6-14 years age bracket were enrolled in primary schools (47.2 percent).

At the secondary level, 401,424 pupils were enrolled out of an eligible population of 2.22 million.

At the pre-school level (kindergarten and nursery schools), only 349,306 out of a target 1.8 million children have been enrolled.

In addition to meagre financial resources, the ministry of education attributes the low intake to the civil war that has rendered some parts of the country rather inaccessible.

Pupils in many schools have to sit on the ground.

Though education is free at the primary and secondary levels in the Sudan, students are currently obliged to pay fees due to the financial plight of teachers and lack of school equipment and supplies.

The situation is no better at the university level as planners have been constrained to scrap sundry services due to the tremendous intake in institutions of higher learning.

Students must now pay for food, lodging and transport, among other free services they previously enjoyed.

Notwithstanding, planners boast of raising enrolment from 4,000 in 1990 to 30,000 in 1999. Accordingly, the number of universities jumped from six in 1989 to 26 in 1999.

The major worry now is the exodus of lecturers and teachers.

Lecturers prefer to work in Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich countries of the Arabian Peninsula where they are well paid, forcing education authorities to hire lecturers from Syria, Iraq and Egypt, but without fully filling the gap.