February 2, 2023

Joint Statement: Urgent action needed as 6.9 million children are out-of-school and 12 million face learning disruptions

© UNICEF Sudan/Noorani/2019

KHARTOUM, Monday 12 September 2022 – Approximately 6.9 million girls and boys, one in three school-aged children, do not go to school in Sudan, and a further 12 million will have their school years heavily interrupted by a lack of sufficient teachers, infrastructure, and an enabling learning environment to make them reach their full potential.

School is more than just a learning space for children. Beyond reading, writing, and mathematics, children learn social and emotional skills, play in a safe environment, and have access to other critical services. Schools protect children from the physical dangers around them – including abuse, exploitation, and recruitment into armed groups. And they offer psychosocial support, giving children stability and structure in a volatile environment. For many children in Sudan, education is lifesaving!

With the exacerbating socio-economic situation, recurring conflicts, and prolonged COVID-19 school closures, once children drop out of school, the chances of girls and boys returning to school are low. Girls are especially vulnerable: evidence suggests that the economic crisis is deepening gender inequalities in Sudan, especially among adolescent girls.

To prevent further learning loss, reopening of schools, and offering alternative education opportunities for children who missed many years of school is a top priority.

“Without an ambitious and exerted focus to address these crucial issues, more girls and boys will lose their childhoods to labour, marriage, and other rights violations.” Arshad Malik – Country Director – Save the Children in Sudan

Moreover, globally, due to the worst shock to education and learning in recorded history, learning poverty has increased by a third in low- and middle-income countries. This generation of students now risks losing US$21 trillion in potential lifetime earnings in present value, or the equivalent of 17 per cent of today’s global GDP.

“No country can afford to have one-third of its school-age children with no basic literacy, numeracy, or digital skills. Education is not just a right – it’s also a lifeline,” says Mandeep O’Brien – UNICEF Representative in Sudan.

Without urgent action, the learning crisis in Sudan will become a generational catastrophe.

UNICEF and Save the Children – as co-leads of the international education cluster in Sudan – call on the Government of Sudan to reopen schools as soon as possible, keep the schools open for the entire academic year, ensure no schools are occupied by armed actors, and facilitate additional alternative education opportunities to make sure no child is left behind. We call on all stakeholders – foremost the Government – to ensure sufficient funding for education is available, including for teacher salaries and school feeding programmes.

Education is a win-win investment: Improving access to and quality of education is key for the development of children and countries.

Source: UNICEF