The Sudan, located in northeast Africa has been in constant state of flux ever since its independence under the Islamic leader, Mahdi at the close of the 19th century. Only months after driving the British forces out of Khartoum and effectively unifying all of the Sudan, the Mahdi died and his successor, Khalifa Abdallah, was left to deal with civil war and the threat of invasion from Britain and Egypt. The Egyptian and British alliance defeated Khalifa’s forces in a battle for control of Omdurman and reclaimed control of the Sudan. The two governments, signed a condominium agreement establishing joint control of the Sudan.
By the end of WWII, two political parties emerged that stood opposed in their respective visions of the Susan. The National Unionist Party, which was led by al-Azhari, called for the union of the Sudan and Egypt, while the Umma Party demanded that ties be severed with Egypt and that the Sudan gain its independence.
Once the Sudan was granted its independence in 1956, the country itself became divided. The northern part was dominated by Muslims, while the southern half was split between Christian and ancestral African beliefs. Following the expulsion of colonial rule, the new Sudan focused on its Arab identity which effectively isolated the south and eliminated its voice from the Sudan’s political future.
Peace in the Sudan lasted only a short time as al-Azhari was ousted in a bloodless coup in 1958. The leader of the coup, General Ibrahim Abboud, assumed power and established military rule in an effort to consolidate power. Abboud though was unable to solve the “southern problem.” The problems escalated into a civil war in the southern part of Sudan, killing almost 500,000 people. A tenuous peace agreement was reached in 1972 and the south was granted self-rule within the united Sudan. By 1983, in spite of his promise to allow southern self-rule, Colonel Nimeri, who drafted the peace proposal, enforced Islamic law, sharia, on both northern and southern colonies, which resulted in another civil war. During the war, southern Sudan’s position was fragmented by internal divisions. The Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) formed as the military wing of The Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).
The constant state of war that has ravaged the Sudan for the past twenty years has driven out hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees into Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya. Tens of thousands of women and children who have been deemed “infidels,” have been captured as war booty, taken from their families and forced into unpaid labor. Over 4 million people in southern Sudan people have been forced to flee their homes and have become “internally displaced.”
More than 1.9 million people (1 out of every 5 southern Sudanese person) have died in the past two decades as a result of the Sudan’s civil war. This massive loss of life surpasses the civilian death toll of any war since World War II. In the first half of 1998 alone there were 70,000 deaths. The present is grim for Sudanese children too. Thousands of children suffer from Marasmus, the most severe degree of malnutrition, a condition in which children’s bodies literally feed off their own muscle until it is nearly gone. Then they die.
Although most Sudanese people live in rural areas, education is centered around Khartoum. There is a general lack of schooling in the Sudan with high rates of illiteracy among the population. In public schools, students are grouped into grade levels solely on the basis of age. For example, a 15 year-old who’s never attended school before would be placed in ninth grade even though he/she might not know how to even hold a pencil.
ESL instruction is not individualized either as the public schools often assume that students are literate in native language.
Parents care very much about children’s education. Lack of involvement does not mean lack of caring.
Limited access to books in the home. Parents may be unable to read themselves.
Multilingual: Nuer is the primary language of most students; however Arabic is widely spoken as well as other tribal languages like Bari and Muru.
-Oral nature of culture- in general, traditionally no formal written form of language.
What seems like chaos to us is quite normal for them.
-Community oriented (community more highly valued than individual).
-Different time system; “African time” (culturally, time is viewed as a sequence of unfolding events); not as regimented
May have been in traumatic situations (running from attacks, witnessed shootings, starvation, death). Most have lived in multiple countries
Many children here without mother or father or both (may have been killed in the war). Large families; close knit
Brewster, K. Sudanese English Project: Teaching English as a Second Language. U.S.D. Community Service Learning.
Peterson, S. (2001). Me Against My Brother: At War in Somalia, Sudan, and Rwanda. New York: Routledge.
Websites Worth Surfing
Sudanese English Project
This site offers information about upcoming activities, students and contributors toward the Sudanese English project, and links to refugee and African sites.
Quick reference page with links.
Sudan-American Foundation for Education (SAFE) website. The organization aims at improving higher education in the Sudan.
Website with thorough information regarding Sudanese government.
Information on many aspects of the country.
This is the site for the Sudan Online List (SOL) which acts as a link for information on culture, travel, human rights issues and more.
Sources for Teachers and Students
Abusharaf, Rogaia Mustafa. Wanderings: Sudanese Migrants and Exiles in North America (The Anthropology of Contemporary Issues)
Arnot, B. (1998). The Children of Sudan: Innocent Victims of War and Famine. Save the Children.
Human Rights Watch Africa Staff, Jemera Rone. (1995). Children of Sudan: Slaves, Street Children, and Child Soldiers.
Holtzman, Jon D. Nuer Journeys, Nuer Lives: Sudanese Refugees in Minnesota.
Walgren, Judy. The Lost Boys of Natinga: A School for Southern Sudan’s Young Refugees. (Children’s book)
Wilkes, Sybella One Day We Had to Run. (Children’s book)