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Sudan: Newsline

For girls in South Darfur, finishing primary school is a major milestone

©UNICEF Sudan/2006/Nguyen
Fatma, 13, belongs to the small group of South Darfur students to reach eighth grade.

DARFUR, Sudan, 18 July 2006 – Fatma Atma Musa, 13, goes to school, studies and socializes with her friends – normal activities for children in developed countries. But in Darfur, Fatma is the exception rather than the rule.

For children in the impoverished rural village where she lives, reaching eighth grade is a major milestone.

In principle, primary education is guaranteed to all in Sudan, but in reality very few make it all the way through the system. Many girls Fatma’s age are required to stay home and do household chores.

And families of school-age children are expected to financially support the construction of schools, ensure that their children have educational supplies and pay the salaries of teachers. Many children drop out after only three or four years.

‘I know I am lucky’

Fatma has no doubt about the secret of her success. “I have supportive parents who encourage me to attend school and complete at least the primary cycle,” she says.

She is fortunate, too, in having a role model; her mother attended school through grade five.

© UNICEF Sudan/2006/Nguyen
UNICEF has worked with the Ministry of Education and NGO partners to increase school enrolment for girls like these in South Darfur.

“My mother speaks to me fondly of school days and how much she wished she could have stayed longer,” notes Fatma. “There are times when I feel inconvenient to them by spending too much time at school. I know I’m lucky.”

Supplies, training and fees

Fatma is one of 7 eighth-grade girls in a primary school of nearly 2,000 students. Because there are not enough textbooks for each student, she shares her books with two others.

UNICEF cooperates with the Ministry of Education and NGO partners to help Fatma’s school and 332 other schools in South Darfur by:

  • Creating learning spaces
  • Providing education supplies
  • Supporting teacher and volunteer training
  • Ensuring adequate water and sanitation in schools.

UNICEF also buys furniture for some schools and provides food for students.

In addition, for the past two years, UNICEF has been paying fees for girls like Fatma to take the week-long final examination administered by the Ministry of Education. The exam is yet another big hurdle to higher education, but it’s a jump that Fatma is committed to achieve.


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