The Sudanese students' life in public universities is in constant fluctuation between suspension of Education indefinitely and abrupt resumption. These fluctuations happened mostly for political reasons, where students would lose around 1 to 3 months every two years or so. However, the school years 2018 to 2020 were exceptionally long for everyone, but especially for this segment of society. The year 2018 ended with the spark of the revolution, thus students had their education put on hold for roughly 10 months. Only to resume their education afterward and then be ambushed by the COVID-19 pandemic that halted the process for an additional half a year.
Protests started in December 2018 because of soaring food prices and shortages of fuel, Sky News
Delays and lengthy school closure periods really affect students' degrees, especially if they want to pursue academia. In my conversations with some, the majority mentioned how the lengthy gaps made it hard to study afterward and how they mostly felt disconnected from the educational process. Not to forget, of course, how most of these gaps are followed by a rushed month or so in order to catch up to the schedule as fast as possible.
Students also struggle during the disruptive period, because of the uncertainty regarding when education would be resumed again, leading them to be indecisive whether or not to pursue an internship, training, a business endeavor, or some course. Add to that, of course, the majority's inability to get employed for lack of certification. Unexpectedly, however, some students mentioned that a lot of their peers have started to backlog their education and start careers, whatever they may be. That is concerning when you realize that a number of young people are being edged out of academia and losing interest in academic qualifications, not out of dislike, but rather lack of proper opportunities.
“I just want to graduate already.” - Anfal
A lot of students have reported that their mental states have been deteriorating ever since the suspension of education for various reasons. I’ve heard statements such as “I’ve been in a perpetual state of panic about my future” and “I no longer care about getting the virus, I really just want my life to resume”, and plenty of other complaints were made by the students I spoke to for this article. The majority of them stated that their social life has taken a hit and with it, their emotional and mental health. Specialists find this increase in mental health issues to be concerning since many adult mental health disorders develop initially during adolescence.
“I wish more people and especially students would recognize the dangers of this pandemic and act accordingly” - Munib
In response to the pandemic and most educational facilities locking down, the majority of the world headed towards online education so as to not lose time. The problem here is that online education is not really a feasible option for public universities in Sudan where the internet is already not stable and power outages are a regular occurrence, indicating the need for a reliable network infrastructure. Not to disregard the fact that it has the added cost of personal computers or smartphones and internet subscriptions. So it comes as no surprise that quality education and internet access are among the main concerns for children and young people in Africa, according to U-Report polling data released by UNICEF.
“I’m anxious thinking about how much time this is taking away from me” - Amna
Online education is not the end-all-be-all for the problem of education in crises and emergencies. There is also the risk of increased digital use negatively affecting students’ mental and physical health. “Increased screen time usage, especially for non-academic activities, has been found to be linked with increases in depression, anxiety, and perceived attention problems,” says Jennifer Katzenstein, director of psychology and neuro-psychology at the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, who'd observed remote learning and its impact on children of all ages. According to her, college students, in particular, are struggling to create distraction-free environments and develop the organizational skills necessary for them to stay on top of their assignments, which can worsen their mental states.
COVID-19 numbers in Sudan for January 23rd
“No one seems to care and this worries me” - Yassir
Today, nearly a year into the COVID-19 whirlwind and only a few weeks before most if not all universities are up and running again, students are anxious and fearful of another indefinite pause. Dormitories and student housing remain a concern and the streets are aflame with protests again. Plenty of students are terrified of the possibility that they might have to park at home for a while to come and yet, they still have hope. Be it for things to go well or merely the strength to get through it, all students have is hope and the determination to change things for the better.