Sudan: a young refugee in Khartoum
Grabbing a piece of chalk, I watch as Maalim scribbles something on the classroom blackboard. It reads: science in our life.
“I want to become a doctor when I grow up because I love science!” Eight-year old Maalim remarks with confidence.
Just like many children around the world, Maalim loves to play with friends, study his favourite subject and he has big dreams.
However, Maalim is different. Maalim is among 30,000 refugees living in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. His parents escaped the hardship in Eritrea in search of a better life.
Each year, it’s reported that thousands of Eritrean refugees attempt to make the crossing into Sudan and Ethiopia; and many are bound for Egypt, Israel, Morocco and Europe.
However, for many, their attempts end in misery. According to reports, many are returned by Egyptian authorities while others either starve to death in the desert, die crossing rivers or are killed by smuggling gangs.
Lucky to be born in Khartoum, Maalim didn’t have to encounter the struggles that his parents may have encountered as they fled Eritrea ten years ago.
Other children sometimes tease Maalim and call him Habash, meaning someone from the Horn of Africa. However, that wouldn’t be Maalim’s greatest worry.
His dreams of being a doctor, though big, stand the risk of being shattered.
Children who are lucky enough to complete high school cannot go to public universities because they aren’t Sudanese. To be accepted in a university in Sudan, a refugee has to pay very high fees.
Most refugees who come to Sudan face numerous challenges including discrimination and limited access to services such as healthcare and education, mainly due to low income.
Children face major hardships as refugees because their parents struggle to meet their needs with minimal income.
Education costs approximately 600 Sudanese pounds (approx. US$120) in addition to everyday living costs.
Life isn’t easy
To survive, many refugee families are forced to share accommodation. Typically, as many as 30 families (approx. 150 people) live in one house containing five rooms.
The rental cost for one room within a house is approximately 300 Sudanese pounds (approx. US$67) and since one family cannot solely meet the rent, they’re forced to share rooms that are barely 40 square metres large.
One can imagine the bitter struggle for children who live in such confined spaces.
As the camera flashes and flickers in his classroom, Maalim engages with the camera with cheerful banter.
I cannot help but wonder how he keeps up his unrelenting positive spirit. My guess is hope. Hope that he will become a doctor someday and will not have to endure the struggles that his family experiences.
What we’re doing
Save the Children is working together with UNHCR (United Nations Humanitarian Commission for Refugees), government ministries and local organisations to assist over 14,000 children who are refugees in Sudan with health, protection and education projects.
Through our education project, children like Maalim get a chance to go to school and receive some basic education.
Currently, Maalim attends one of the seven refugee schools in Khartoum state that Save the Children supports by providing stationery for the school and training for the teachers.
Save the Children also trains government officials and communities on rights of refugees and children’s rights. We also provide refugee families with capital to start small businesses so they can provide for their children.