Reflections from a Sudanese Community Elder

Hello brothers and sisters, my name is John Kang and I’m one of the Sudanese Community elders. I would like to share with you some of the general aspects of the Sudanese culture.

Generally, Sudan is divided into North and South, with the North composed of Arab culture and South mainly carrying African culture. In the South there are more tribes with different cultural diversities and there are three regions where these tribes are mainly distributed; Upper Nile, Equatoria, and Bar El Gazel.

All these regions are represented here in San Diego. Typically, their cultures are all related to each other. I was born along the Upper Nile, which is the longest river in the world. The people living there are called Nilotics, and there are tribes like Nuers, Dinkas, Shullukes, Anuakes and many others. In Nuers and Dinkas culture, children are classified according to theirs ages. In the rural areas, boys are designated to take care of the herds, which are mainly cattle, sheep and goats. Girls, meanwhile, stay close to their mothers in order to study the house-hold activities.

In the towns where children are going to schools, the life is completely different. In Sudan, most of the middle schools are dormitory style where children stay in school till the school time is over. They come home only during the vacation just only for a room and go back on time. Normally, our children respect all the elders. They don’t even play near the big people like their elder brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers. The way we discipline our children is by biting them with the thin stick or in some cases the teacher use a ruler in the class to stop any misbehavior he/she observes with the students.

Our children of today are all confused because the education that they receive in schools very different from the home culture. We ought to discipline them as kids, but in the school our cultural aspects react conditionally to the model of the teaching system in the school. However, the children are not having perfect cultural dimensional aspects on their road down to school. In Sudan, we have separate schools for boys and girls so according to our culture they are both are receiving the same way of discipline.

In San Diego, our children are highly respectful of us at home. They sit in their place and do not shout or fight with each other. They are so careful when they call adults to bring them something. At home the father is the head of the house-hold, so the mother relates everything to the father so that children will never forget to show him respect. Mothers are respected too, but mostly by their daughters rather than the boys. Advice and positive discussions of any matter of the misbehavior acts are the main source of the complete understanding. Back home, we have a complete classification system from generation to generation. When the boy reaches the ages of sixteen, he should receive some marks that designate him to become a man of his age. He will keep on with his aged generation who received marks with him during the same year. There are more classes above them where they shouldn’t have a chance to enter into their meeting, and when they still bear the name boys, even if they have received these marks which transformed them from boy-hood to man-hood.

This goes the same for any class above each other, so the respect is passed from class to class till the lineated generation. In greetings, young people give their head to the elders to breathe over his/her hair some molecules of saliva as a blessing. The children should not look at the elder directly eye to eye, but turn their faces down when talking with them. Children, just as they show this respect at home, we also expect them to demonstrate this respect to their teachers in school. Here in San Diego, we have a big cultural friction, the children are asked to learn cross-culturally, which is hard because the American culture is trying to dominate the original home culture of all the immigrants and refugees of ethnics diversities coming from different countries.

At home every child kneels down in front of the mother and father, and also does this to the others elders. They can do it as they always do with their mothers and fathers. In school, I really recommend that in any case, the school should call for help from the parents or any Sudanese elder coming by. In school, children learn how to accuse their parents, and this brought a great gap between parents and the school authority. To win the child’s respect is to know the ethnical cultural origin of the child, and understand where this might have some impact on the school teaching system.