Following the country's first positive COVID-19 case in March, Sudan’s authorities imposed a raft of precautionary restrictions, including closure of all learning institutions, in an effort to contain the spread of the highly infectious virus. In May of 2020, UNESCO, estimated that at least 8 million leaners in Sudan, were impacted by continued school closures.
From the beginning of July, the government has begun to ease some of those restrictions including the reopening of schools, to allow primary school pupils to sit for their final exams. World Vision supported primary school-going children in Wadalmahi locality, Blue Nile state, southeast of Sudan, to return to school and take their final examinations, critical for them to proceed to the next education level.
14-year-old Hafiz expressed his excitement at being back at school and meeting with his classmates again, observing that: "Before they announced the start of school again, I was so worried because it was not clear when we would return to school. We received great support from our teachers and from outside, to enable us to sit our final examination in a safe manner,” he noted.
Another student, 13-year-old Malaz, also sitting for her final exams agreed that returning back to school after nearly three months since learning was temporarily suspended due to the novel coronavirus, is a huge relief for her.
“When the government announced the closure of schools, we were just few days away from taking the final exams. Hearing the news was upsetting and I really felt discouraged when I learned that I could not go to school anymore, and even worse, for an unknown period of time,” Malaz remembered.
Without the ability to continue with learning at home through various approaches such as digital learning and online instruction, students like Malaz and Hafiz had a lot to worry, the longer they stayed away from school.
Therefore the easing of restrictions, including allowing schools to re-open and thus allowing students to take their exams came as a relief for Hafiz, Malaz and many more. In Wadalmahi locality, Blue Nile, the Ministry of Education identified Abu Ghadaf Basic school as an examination centre to host children from six neighbouring schools to take their final exams, which are critical to them pursuing secondary education.
World Vision joined hands with UNICEF and Save the Children to support the Ministry of Education to prepare and equip the examination centre. This included ensuring the centre was installed with water and hand-washing facilities, as well as the implementation of physical distancing measures, as students sat in the designated exam rooms.
World Vision also provided face masks and hand sanitisers, for the total 134 students to take their final exams. Teachers and all workers in the examination centre also benefitted from this support. World Vision also provided dignity kits for girl students from the most vulnerable households, which included menstrual pads, bathing and washing soap benefitting at least 62 girls.
“We would like to thank World Vision for the support they have provided to our students and also to the Abu Ghadaf community,” says Ms. Asma Mohammed, the manager in charge of the Abu Ghadaf examination centre. “The extra support from our partners, made the process of preparing the centre and administering the examinations smooth.”
With the support of OCHA, through the Sudan Humanitarian Fund and Irish Aid, World Vision has been actively engaging community members in Abu Ghadaf in COVID-19 risk and prevention campaigns.
“We continue to engage different groups in the community including the youth and faith leaders in disseminating prevention messages, and reinforcing the importance of not just practicing the prevention regulations, but the importance of doing so.
Besides spreading messages on COVID-19, World Vision has been sensitising girls and women on Gender-Based Violence (GBV), raising their awareness on possible harassment and violence, especially during this time where it has emerged that incidents of violence especially on girls and women could be on the rise.
“The chances of girls and women being harassed or violated are quite high, and so we are sensitising them, almost on a daily basis so that they are on the lookout and seek help,” says Hayat al Toum, World Vision’s Child Care and Gender Development officer.
A major concern is that several girls have to walk long distances to get to school thus increasing their risk of exposure. “When we have sessions with them, we advise them on ways to minimise their risk of exposure to abuse; for example we encourage them to move in groups as they go to school and go back home,” Hayat says.
Photos by Al Harith in Blue Nile.