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SUDAN: Conflict has sparked fourfold increase in violent attacks on schools and education

KHARTOUM, 28 May 2024 – The number of violent attacks on schools and education in Sudan has increased fourfold since before conflict erupted in April last year with 88 reports of violent incidents and most schools now closed, according to Save the Children analysis released today.

These incidents include airstrikes on schools resulting in the killing and injury of students and teachers, torturing of teachers, killing and abduction of teachers and sexual violence against students inside education facilities. Other incidents included occupation of schools by armed groups, use of schools as weapons storage facilities, and battles fought on education premises.  

The analysis comes as the Education Cluster —a group of aid agencies, including Save the Children, who work on education in Sudan— warns that the country is on the brink of the worst education crisis in the world, with the majority of schools closed, leaving more than 18 million children of the country’s estimated 22 million children out of school for over a year now.    

For the analysis, Save the Children reviewed individual incidents of armed attacks or confrontations affecting education reported in the Armed Conflict Location & Event Database (ACLED) between April 2023 and April 2024 across Sudan and saw an alarming rise in attacks.  Twenty-three such incidents were recorded by ACLED in the 12 months before the conflict.

Dr. Arif Noor, Country Director for Save the Children in Sudan, said:

“It’s not just children’s lives that are on the line, but also their futures. Millions of children continue to face disruptions to their education with their schools destroyed by bombs, taken over as shelters for displaced families, or learning stopped as children flee.

“Sudan is a signatory to the Safe Schools Declaration, an inter-governmental political commitment to protect students, teachers, schools, and universities from the worst effects of armed conflict. We need to see action on this commitment so that education and children’s futures are protected from harm.”  

Hadeer*, 13, was displaced with her family from Omdurman, Khartoum state, to Atbara, about 320 km northeast. She has three younger siblings. Her aunt and uncle were killed, and her nieces fled Sudan. Her family lost contact with her father in the chaos of the conflict. Until Save the Children built a school in the camp for displaced people in Atbara, she never thought she would be able to study again.

She said: “I wish to be an architect when I grow up. At home we had facilities and electricity, and I could walk [to school] and study safely. But here I feel scared when I walk in the streets, not like there [home].

“Thank goodness we now live here, but it’s not as comfortable as our life in our house in Khartoum. We wish that what happened in Khartoum and other states does not happen here. The organisation [Save the Children] opened a school for us while we thought we would not have one. We are thankful that we now have a school and an opportunity to study again.”

Save the Children is calling for urgent political action at national, regional and international levels to end the fighting and bring about a locally led comprehensive peace process. The aid agency is also calling on all parties to the conflict to adhere to their obligations under international law, including guaranteeing humanitarian access and ensuring children are protected.

Sudan is facing one of the largest unfolding crises globally. About 25 million people, or half of the country's population, need humanitarian assistance. [OCHA]

The number of violent attacks on schools and education in Africa has been on the rise. In February, a similar analysis by Save the Children ahead of the 37th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, showed  a rise in violence affecting schools, teachers and learners across Africa Union countries, with 411 cases reported, representing a 20% jump in 2023.  

In light of this trend, Save the Children is calling on leaders in Sudan and across the African Union to make schools safe places for children, having chosen education as "AU theme for 2024", and committed to building resilient education systems for increased access to inclusive, lifelong, quality, and relevant learning in Africa.

Save the Children has worked in Sudan since 1983, and is currently supporting children and their families across Sudan providing health, nutrition, education, child protection and food security and livelihoods support. Save the Children is also supporting refugees from Sudan in Egypt and South Sudan.


Notes to Editors:  

Save the Children searched the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data (ACLED) database for reported incidents of battles, looting, violent rioting, kidnappings, explosions/remote violence and non-peaceful protests concerning students, educational personnel and educational facilities. 

We filtered for entries that mentioned any of the following terms and their plurals: Student, pupil, school, teacher, education, classroom, headteacher, headmaster, headmistress, educational, college, university, academic, class, educator, janitor, caretaker. 

Figures will likely differ from the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) count of attacks on education for Sudan due to differences in methodology.

Please find audio recordings of displaced children in Sudan talking about education here: Save the Children - Search Result (contenthubsavethechildren.org)

For further enquiries please contact media@savethechildren.org.uk / +44(0)7831 650409