Formal education through village schools is key to a peaceful and stable Sudan

Category: Writing aboard the Kenya Airways: A story on coming to Rwanda for the first time
Published on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 06:25
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James Adiok Mayik

Imagine rebuilding a society whose members had been at each other’s throat for more than two decades.  Imagine rebuilding a society without expert personnel to provide the kind of expertise badly needed in this rebuilding process. Postwar Sudan is this society. If nothing fundamental changes to address the intrinsic causatives of war, which are mainly economic inequality/imbalance, lack of equitable distribution of formal skills, inequitable distribution of wealth, lack of vital information about ourselves and our environments, and lack of quality education system, stability is far from coming to Sudan. The impact of having a huge percentage of uninformed population is very clear now in that the peace building momentum is very poor if not difficult in Sudan. In my opinion, Sudanese kill each other most of the time simply because there is a widespread misinformation and disinformation about each other and our local resources. The chronic civil war in Sudan is caused by a marginalization driven-poverty which in turn is caused by ignorance within the higher echelon leading Sudan. This ignorance can be eradicated if the government of Sudan, the governments of all respective Sudanese States, and along with non-governmental organizations launches a village-based and cattle camps’ schooling system.

Although the military is of paramount importance to safeguard the peace agreement and rights of individual groups on the political point of view, a real peace among Sudanese will not come through building military might on different fronts of the conflicts but only through a well informed civil population. In this paper, I am arguing that Sudan must invest heavily and in a timely fashion in building schools for every village and cattle camp across Sudan. This is one among the most important approaches to speed up the rebuilding process to attain a stable Sudan.

When the civil war started in May 1983, most high school students joined the war and their classes were left empty only to be filled with nothing but benches. As time went by and the war intensified, all teachers quit their jobs to either join the war or run away from it. The result was that all big cities such as Khartoum, Juba, Wau, Damazin, Kadugli, Al Obeid, Nyala and major refugee camps found themselves in thick populations of villagers from the rural areas. This obviously affected the school system in the entire country leaving all societies in a limbic war of attrition economically and health wise. Most students up to and including lower level of the education system was cut short of schooling.  The result of this among other factors renders 90% of illiteracy and semi-literacy in Sudan.

By the late eighties, all the education system in South Sudan was shut down completely to give way to then surging SPLA military campaign fitted against the government of the day based in Khartoum.  This gap in the education provision in South Sudan has, indeed, created a big gap in providing a sustainable human capital in the postwar Sudan and in the South particularly. The results were and are still felt nationwide. Besides SPLA occupation of South Sudan and its schools as battle grounds, Sudan’s government responded to the war by channeling all public funds in attempt to suppress the rebellion in the south. The result of such financial drains was chaotic backlash in Darfur and Eastern Sudan.

Investing heavily in rebuilding the education system of South Sudan is a critical point of view that most professionals of other dimension of the Sudanese society might question and challenge. And that is very normal and indeed typical of a well put civil argument. However, what need to be looked at more critically is the role education may play in the country’s stability. It is easy to communicate at the same level and understandably with well educated members of a group. It is also more secure to work with and among well educated individuals. On the contrary, it is dangerous to have a small class of well educated and skilled individuals among a mass of disproportionately represented groups in the white collar job market. Classroom education interconnects all fields of expertise in a society.  Doctors, lawyers, professors, accountants, formally educated businessmen/businesswomen, expert farmers, name them, have all come to be through classroom education. Every child is ambitious in one way or another and if provided with an opportunity for self development, our lives in Sudan will simply change from war, violent mentality, and cynical attitudes to professional dreamers and ambitious hard workers. Moreover, it is the quality of these argued village classrooms and indeed the quality of leaders who may lead these classes that can determine the quality of the aforementioned changes.  That implies that the quality of the education system we can have determines the quality of lives we can live as a society. The danger is when our current education system skews the supply of these aforementioned professionals in favor of small elites. A skewed supply of personnel does continue to skew the demands of vital services and wealth building across the country. This does not make us a safe future in Sudan.

The benefits of investing heavily in education across Sudan are not only limited to speeding up the peace building process. Building schools in all villages of the Sudan and embarking on intensive local teacher development programs will help create a new way of life for many Sudanese. Pro-culture conservatives and those who enjoy the view of maintaining innocent African traditions in the Sudan may look at my arguments as a radicalized western point of view usually blamed for rampant deviance. But let me pre-inform this view if any that cultures are not static. What we normally see as western cultures most of the time is often illusive, misinformed, and bears little truth. Western cultures have come a long way and were often intensively transformed through deadly conflicts most of us don’t get to trace back in history. Most of us don’t see that we are going through a similar trend of culture transformation through similar conflicts. Adopting a massive and transgressed rebuilding of the education system to help every young person accesses formal and universal education will make Sudan a peacefully, a politically stable, and an economically viable society.

Massive and transgressed investment in education will help bring the kind of equality lacking in Sudan’s human capital. Rebuilding education throughout Sudan’s villages will help distribute wealth building skills across all societies of the Sudan. Moreover, village schools will help bridge the gap of human development through formal schooling between male and females. Let me dive into generating gross ideas on how this rebuilding process should be effectively carried out.  Sudan is made up of many cultures and helping some youth in some cultures to access stable schools can be complicated if not impossible. Some societies are seen as being culturally too violent and others as peaceful. Still others are seen as too nomadic and others as settled. The fact is a fact that all humans evolved the same way in front of nature. Apart from mapping up stable villages for equitable distributions of stable school premises and teaching staff, the governments of Sudan should also consider children of nomadic societies by building mobile schools and training mobile teachers who can move with these children. Some tribes, of course, are too hostile not because it is their nature but because they use violence as a defense mechanism due to disinformation about other ways of voicing their concerns. Violence in some of our tribes is typical of a violent country such as ours. So why do we blame them? We all know the problem and we know bad the impacts are on us all. All we need to do is find the solution to address the problem of instability in Sudan with the goal to make it a peaceful member of the civilized global community of the twenty-first century.

The go-to-school initiative in the South of Sudan initiated by different NGOs in collaboration with Government of South Sudan should not only be appreciated but adopted countrywide and used as one of the many peace building strategies. By that I mean it should not only be restricted in the South. According to a document from the UNICEF’s website “Education is a Child’s right.” A stable country is that in which its young talents are tapped maximally for the benefits of building its future generations and not in defense against each other. A country in which many young people loiter on the streets without jobs is flooded in violence and is prone to slide into a civil war. Sudan is exactly this country. Lack of action plan to strategically invest in the youth is the direct root cause of Sudan’s wars.

Sudan’s lack of well informed manpower makes it hard for anyone in the literature community to define formal age of retirement in the civil services. Most politicians die of old age on the jobs and young people find it difficult to access powerful political positions without bending constitutional regulations. This has created classism and elitism that has made corruption an unquestionable practice of public service arena. In conclusion, my argument to decentralize school system will bring formal skills accessible to all villages of the Sudan, to all doors of underrepresented communities, and to all tribes we find too hostile to serve. This argument is rooted in my conviction that rigorous formal education opens people’s minds and eyes to learn to appreciate multiculturalism. Sudan will be more peaceful and stable whether in unity or disunity only when vital information about ourselves and our environments penetrate all our villages. This vital information will reach every Sudanese only through a formal school and quality teachers in each village.

*Adiok mayik is a Professional Educator with a Graduate Level of Training in Teacher Education. He is a regular contributor to the New Sudan Vision. For Questions, he can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.