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SUDAN: Refugee Education Program

Local Partner: The Canossian Foundation in Khartoum
Year: 2010

The war in Darfur has caused hundreds of thousands to flee their homes and seek refuge in the outskirts of Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. Around 17 million people still lack drinking water and more than 20 million lack hygienic disposal services for organic waste.  Women and children represent the largest part of the population at risk, especially in the refugee camps which host a total of more than 4 million displaced persons. The camps at Jabarona are the most grossly over-crowded.  The El Obeid refugee camps have increased in resident population from 100,000 to 800,000 people as a result of the conflict. In such an emergency situation, education proves most challenging. With the public sector not addressing the problem, religious orders and NGOs are the only organizations continuing to provide education for refugee children. But the lack of funds means that teachers are poorly paid (if at all), infrastructures are non-existent and schools are open intermittently.

The project provided teacher training focused on reducing the high rates of malnutrition and illiteracy among children of all ethnic backgrounds, building bridges between Muslims and Christians in the area and improving the quality of life for all. This continuing, basic teacher enrichment program gives many young refugees between 2 and 13 years of age at least a fighting chance to improve their lives in spite of such serious social deprivations in early childhood. The program benefitted 300 teachers who participated in formation courses; 100 children of mixed ethnicities, ages 2-13, from the refugee camps of Jabarona; and 120 children of different ethnicities, ages 5-14, from the refugee camps of El Obeid.

Teacher training in refugee camps

The teachers were able to reinforce their own education in different organizational areas, ranging from education to practical aspects. Besides enhancing their skills, they learned how to motivate their students and focus on the development of the whole person, beginning with taking care of the environment that surrounds them and valuing the importance of doing one’s work well.

“Conflicts and problems involving religious beliefs remain outside our classrooms”, says Sister Giovanna Tosi, Provincial of the Canossian Order in charge of the program. “If anything, the only positive dialogue that takes place between Christians and Muslims happens through our schools, which represent an environment where human values are transmitted and promoted”.

“Through education and the promotion of human dignity, we encourage the young people of Sudan to grow and become ‘agents of change'”, says Sister Giovanna Tosi. “They learn that they are the ones who must bring about the change they dream of, to work at building a better country. Having nurturing, motivating teachers that the students can look up to makes a world of difference”.