Educational policies in Sudan changed dramatically since the advent of the Islamic Front government in 1989, or what is known as the National Salvation Revolution. The Salvation regime produced higher education policy that aims to create the largest number of universities and civic institutes while cutting the government spending on government educational institutions. This led to the creation of unfair competition among universities. Under these policies the curriculum and the educational system were changed, which led to another big gap between educational achievements and employment. Graduates from schools or universities possess a lot of information about the nature of their field of study, but are hundreds of miles away from market standards and standards of their Arab or Western peers. The graduate also suffers from not having regularly updated and developed curricula. There is also widespread technical illiteracy among most students in Sudanese universities, in addition to the limitations that are imposed by US sanctions that affect science students and innovators in Sudan.
What motivated me to write this article are the implications of these policies which the government continued to push for consistently in a clear challenge to its responsibilities towards the cause of education, which is considered to be a vital issue in addition to health. It’s in no one’s benefit to leave issues with the highest priority such as education hanging there with no authority. I know I cannot blame the government alone, who failed to pay sufficient salaries for teachers to keep them from seeking other professions, and failed to provide appropriate classes and facilities for students, which resulted in scaring away the middle class parents, whose existence relied on public schools and hospitals. These factors resulted in a two class system, because of the high fees demanded by both the government and the private sector educational facilities.
Image credit: Sudaneseonline.com
The government only provided 3% of its 2015 budget to education, which was about a 59 billion Sudanese pounds, which means only dedicating 1.1 billion for education and creating an educational environment. This percentage for a country like Sudan, which suffers from both illiteracy and poverty, is a crime, intended to tighten control over the people who have to take their children off of school as a result of high government fees or even so that children could work and have an income to help the family. As an observer I do not find any interest or even a real and serious pursuit from the government to fix the problem, therefore it’s justified for teachers to leave public schools and work at private institutions as a result of weak salaries, and lack of improvement in the school environment. It’s notable that the previous study of the government budget shows that the total wages amount to 18 billion pounds (security, police and the army get 62% of it), so you can imagine the income of a teacher at governmental institutions when he gets to share the remaining 38% with the remaining professions!
The minimum wage is 400 Sudanese pounds, or $ 25 in the black market, which is the official price for the Sudanese people as long as there are no dollars coming from industry and agriculture. This means that income is less than a dollar per day, and the parliament has acknowledged that this amount would not be enough to provide even 20% of the needs of the Sudanese citizen.
Even with the decrease in world oil prices and the loss of more than 70% of its value in 2014 you find that in the budget of 2015, the government subsidy increased on basic goods, including fuel and wheat. The Financial Minister commented on the 2017 budget stating that the government subsidy will be lifted from all goods as a condition set by the International Monetary Fund austerity measures on government spending. Lifting of the subsidies began in two stages, first in 2011 and a second time in September 2013. Both events led to widespread demonstrations, resulting in more than 200 deaths and hundreds of injuries (in September 2013) from clashes with the security forces. As a result of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement which put a stop to the longest civil war in the African continent, lasting for more than twenty one years, the Sudanese economy experienced a financial surge and the US dollar settled at two Sudanese pounds, but the government did not invest this in the development of infrastructure in the south which led to the separation as an inevitable result. Additionally, the lack of improvement in educational infrastructure and development was made worse with the loss of oil revenues, which supported the fiscal budget by 44% in the 2006 budget – when the share of educational expenditure was 12 billion pounds, compared to 1.1 billion in 2014.
In the next part of the series I will talk about the Sudanese students’ ability to keep up the pace with the work market in light of the policies imposed by the government towards the pillar of education.