18 December 2008 (IRIN)
Nosa Abdalla Anglo, 19, was only a year away from joining a secondary school in Khartoum in 2005, but is still in primary school four years later and worries about her chances of going to high school in 2012.
Anglo, a returnee to the state of South Kordofan after fleeing the North-South war, which ended with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, was in an Arabic-medium school in Khartoum but is now enrolled in an English-medium primary school in her village of Karkaraya, on the outskirts of Kadugli, the main town in the state. "When I joined the school I was taken back to class two," she told IRIN.
"I was not happy about this but learning was not easy for me because it was now in a new language," Anglo said. "I find arithmetic easy but now even the subjects I knew before seem tough."
"The curriculum is a mix of Kenyan and Ugandan [syllabuses] with a Southern Sudanese twist," said Andrea Naletto, from the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) education project. "This will probably present future challenges for the children as they seek to advance their education."
"Children returning from the north are getting frustrated; this is also contributing to school dropouts," said Cecilia Pino, CARE team leader for South Kordofan. "For most poor people, education ends after the fifth grade."
The few parents who can afford it send their children to schools in the south, in Yei for example, even Kenya and Uganda. There is one English-medium secondary school in Kauda, about 120km from Kadugli, with about 90 students, 12 of whom are girls. The school is inadequately equipped, does not run up to form four and lacks boarding facilities.
The political situation in South Kordofan has resulted in a dual system of education compromising effective learning, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). During the war, no side won a convincing victory in the state, with some areas being under the control of the predominantly Arabic Khartoum administration, while others were under the control of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, which has adopted an English medium.
"The demand for education is high but so are the challenges such as a shortage of schools, learning facilities and qualified teachers. The returnees have seen city life and are sending children to school; we do not want to discourage them," Vijaya Singh, UNICEF education specialist in the state, said. UNICEF is supporting school construction, teacher training and has an accelerated learning programme to help support late school entrants.
The education system relies heavily on volunteers, most of whom have been educated in Arabic and therefore find it difficult to teach in English. The schools have also not been integrated into the state education system and lack government support.
"The quality of education is not very motivating. We have to work a lot on teaching skills," said Singh.
Some of the primary-school teachers are grade six dropouts. "Whoever is available to teach something teaches," said Theodora Oikonomides, education project manager with the NRC.
"Integration between the two systems of education [Arabic and English] has made progress but structural differences in the curriculum, recruitment and training of teachers as well as the salary and employment policy, are an obstacle to the good delivery of services," Oikonomides said.
The adoption of a foreign curriculum is another problem. "We are teaching a Kenyan syllabus but we do not have enough teaching materials, especially for Kiswahili and CRE [Christian religious education]," Ayub Stephen Janerabi, a headmaster said.
In 2007, no passes were recorded in Kiswahili. "This was because the students started learning late. Teachers for the basic classes have now been requested from Kenya," said Anju Mursal Tutu Kuku, the education coordinator in the Ministry of Education.
"Our geography and history are also not included in what we are teaching," Kuku said. "We would like the curriculum to reflect the whole of Sudan and its history, not that of a certain place."
The education ministry has requested the deployment of high school certificate-holders to work as primary school teachers for the 228,000 pupils in the state. There are 1,200 primary schools, of which 165 are English medium, with about 660 volunteer teachers.
There are plans to integrate the two education systems, employ salaried teachers, and develop a curriculum in both Arabic and English, according to the education ministry.
Meanwhile, Anglo is hopeful that in 2009 she will proceed to class six; her school only runs up to class five and has about 391 students but no latrine or water source.
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