Al Tayeb Abd Almahmoud is a Sudanese citizen living in the Abu Zabad area of West Kordofan who makes his living as a farm worker. Abd Almahmoud worked hard to get his five children to school, but the high cost of education this year has meant his eldest child has dropped out of school to work in the mines to help provide for the family and keep the rest of his siblings in school.
School fees in Sudan have doubled this year according to parents, an added burden for families already suffering from the economic crisis. The Sudanese economy has been in bad shape since the beginning of 2018, after the government approved new austerity measures which led to major inflation of more than 64% , with prices of all consumables rocketing.
Abd Almahomoud says, “We do not have any sources of income except waiting for the rainy season to work the small farm that has a limited yield which does not meet our needs of food and water”. He adds, “I had other business trades, but my health has suffered, and I am short-sighted, and nobody is helping us”.
Abd Almahomoud is not the only parent unable to provide schooling for all his children. A report by the Ministry of Education and UNICEF in 2015 said there were more than three million Sudanese children out of school because of economic hardship and armed conflicts in many parts of the country.
The report said 45% of children drop out of school during the last year of primary education, while 43% of them never go to school at all.
Sudan allocates a limited budget for education and health services. The allocated budget for education in 2018 is 3.65% out of a total budget of roughly 581 million Sudanese pounds.
Haitham Hussein, the father of four school students, confirmed that school fees increased by more than 100% : previously school fees were 1500 Sudanese pounds and now they are 3000 Sudanese pounds per student.
Hussein told 7Dnews that three of his children were at primary school, and the fourth in secondary school; total school fees exceed 9000 Sudanese pounds. As per Ministry of Education rules, one of them is exempted from the fees.
“This causes a financial burden because I also need money to maintain the household. The continuity of my children’s schooling is threatened if the current conditions persist, because my income is limited, and I am unable to earn all that money”.
Siham Salah, a Sudanese journalist and activist, warned of the increase in numbers dropping out of school, as it could have catastrophic results on the levels of awareness and education in society and impact the country’s development.
Salah said to 7Dnews that some Sudanese families find themselves forced to stop the education of one of their children due to fees. She said, “we have witnessed many cases where the head of the family had to sacrifice the education of one of the children for the continuing education of siblings or to help them in providing for the family”.
Saleh urged the government to consider the causes that block children’s access to education. She said, “A decision for free primary education in Sudan must be implemented because the current situation is catastrophic and costs the country its future intellectuals and scientists”.
Haider Mohammed Ali, a Sudanese education expert, stressed the importance of providing free education without imposing any fees on students, and that the country should takes full responsibility for the needs of schools. “Everyone should be able to access education. It is a human right granted in international treaties”, he said.
Mohideen Ali, a secondary school teacher in Khartoum said, “As per the instructions of the Ministry of Education, it is prohibited to dismiss any student from school due to inability to pay government fees, which can be paid in instalments. The high fees are imposed by parental councils with the purpose of covering schools’ maintenance and running costs, which are not covered by the government”.
Ali said to 7Dnews, “the bigger burden that causes families to stop sending their children to school includes providing them with pocket money, and the cost of transport to school, all a result of the economic situation in Sudan”.