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I took this photo using my personal phone on November 12, 2022, of the wall of Safia Abdul Aziz Primary School for Girls in Imtidad Nasir, Square One - Buri - Alshaab Almoalem Center (1). It was inscribed with (You are not defeated as long as you are resisting-the 30th of June) as a reminder of the first demonstrations in honor of the glorious December revolution and its martyrs, rejecting military rule after the dispersal massacre of the sit-in in 2019.

Saturday, April 15, 2023, the 23rd of Ramadan 1444, was a day filled with tasks and joyful activities for me. It was the day I introduced a new Arabic lesson for participants in the Academic Support Program for third-grade high school students at Alshaab Almoalem Center for Adult Education and Parallel Education in Buri, Khartoum. I worked at the Center, that is based on community and volunteer efforts, as a facilitator for the Arabic language and as the academic supervisor.

We designated that specific Saturday, as the Ramadan Iftar day for the participants, students, facilitators and volunteers at the Riyadh Family Park near our residential areas and the Center's headquarters. Consequently, we decided to cancel and reschedule the study day to allow everyone to attend the religious and social evening gathering. Therefore, my daily schedule changed from preparing for the session and heading early to the Center, to staying at home and writing down a recipe for preparing light pastries from cooking channels online. I then went with my parents to Al-Anfal shopping centre in our neighbourhood, Imtidad Nasir, to buy ingredients. We returned to prepare many pastries with my sisters, enough for our small family and large Iftar gathering later in the day.

A group photo of the first-level batch of adult education and teachers in the courtyard of the People’s Teacher Center 2023 - by a volunteer

The day did not unfold as anticipated, not for me, my family, our group, or all Sudanese. We all witnessed news of security tensions among officials concerning the movements of the Rapid Support Forces to Merowe military airport and warnings issued by army leadership in the preceding days. However, we could not believe our ears when we heard the loud explosions and the roar of warplanes above our heads on the morning of April 15.

Communication was flying, as we reached out to ensure the safety of our extended family members, friends, and neighbors. Everyone stayed indoors, hoping this ordeal would swiftly pass without a toll on lives. Electricity and water services were disrupted for three continuous days, intermittently returning in the following days. During the first week, gunshots seemed closer to citizens' houses than to military areas. Our neighbors and their families started leaving Khartoum in search of safety, one after another. News, photos, and videos circulated about the Rapid Support Forces' attacks, occupation of citizens' houses, turning civilian homes and property into military and residential quarters, looting properties, and arbitrarily widespread arrests and documented cases of rape by the Combating Violence Against Women Unit (CVAW).

After spending nineteen days, we decided to leave our house. That morning, our neighbor was hit by a stray bullet and passed away. For the first time, I saw the empty and dirty streets after the outbreak of war. My city, where I was born and raised, where I lived my life, had changed. We were stopped on Siteen Street by a Rapid Support Forces checkpoint. Two soldiers approached us—one a young man in his thirties who insisted on checking our belongings and personal phones, claiming that we deserved what was happening to us and more because we "incited General Burhan against them." The other, a boy no older than fifteen, carrying a firearm on his back, almost bigger than himself, gently opposed his colleague, saying we were a family and should be allowed to pass peacefully. Thankfully, we moved on easily. The image of that boy stayed in my mind, pondering over him, this situation, and this country throughout the journey.


We temporarily moved to a furnished house in Soba, south of Khartoum, where water and electricity services remained stable. The only reminders of war were the sound of planes, prompting us to be cautious, or rather, not to move to avoid Rapid Support Force checkpoints on the main street. However, this situation did not last long. The looting and attacks on citizens and their houses shifted from the city center to its outskirts. This was followed by airstrikes by the Air Force on areas occupied by the Rapid Support Forces, rendering Khartoum, both its center and peripheries, unsafe. Except for a few areas, especially Omdurman city, which is currently under the control of the Sudanese Army. We decided to leave Khartoum after about a month to Gezira State, specifically to Rufaa, the city of knowledge and light, my mother's hometown. We risked the long journey, hoping to reach a safe place among our people.

Al-Hasahisa Bridge, Rufa’a - by Mohsen Al-Faki - personal work CC BY-SA 3.0

We left, carrying our sadness and painful stories of Sudanese and foreigners we knew and did not know. We shared their sorrow and pain for those who lost dear souls, who were forcibly separated from their families, who suffered physical harm and sexual assaults, and who lost everything they owned. Some left, some chose to stay. I recall the man whose small car we saw burnt and destroyed on the Soba bridge. The driver informed us that he died grieving his car, as it was all he owned.


By the grace of Allah, we arrived safely, despite the objections of the Rapid Support Forces at various checkpoints, and their demand for money to allow us to leave Khartoum. I gazed at the vast barren and sometimes green landscapes and the small herds of sheep and cows owned by village people alongside the highway, walking around in peace and safety. I observed the ordinary life and daily interactions that I had missed in the past two months through the eyes of people, until we reached our home. Our neighbors welcomed us, expressing gratitude for our safety and eagerly offering their services and assistance, reflecting the renowned Sudanese generosity among Sudanese in general, and the people of Gezira in particular.


All this time, I had not forgotten the young soldier of the Rapid Support Forces who, by the grace of Allah first and then through his effort, convinced the older military officer to let us pass without causing us trouble or harm, refraining from expressing his distorted thoughts against the people of the capital city. This boy and many like him, driven by their circumstances, perhaps influenced by their families and tribal inclinations to participate in this war and others, are the ones I know deserve our resistance.

Presenting a certificate of appreciation to Uncle Saleh, the first batch of 2022 for the eighth parallel grade, in the presence of the administration of the People’s Teacher Center and Safia Abdel Aziz School and honoring the General Secretariat of the National Council for Adult Education and Illiteracy Eradication of the People’s Teacher Center (1) Khartoum 2022, Sudan - by Fares Al-Shaghil.

Future generations deserve us to work now to create a future where we might see Sudan as we hope. Before the war, I chose to work on empowering and developing youth through educational programs within the  Alshaab Almoalem project, accommodating all groups and ages through academically designed programs tailored to the surrounding environment. It starts by diagnosing the specific community’s problems and needs, allowing us to learn together, as facilitators, and participants, the importance of teamwork, the value of democracy, respecting opinions, and not underestimating our efforts, however simple, and preliminary they may seem. The true value in human society lies in the ability to understand dialogue, create sound opinions, and build constructively.

A picture from inside the first level adult education classroom showing a word formation game using cards 2023, Khartoum Bari, Sudan - by Fatima Al-Rasheed.

Today, I am more confident in the necessity of comprehensive educational programs, starting with eradicating illiteracy in centers that accommodate Sudanese people of all ages and genders in their various regions - those settled in villages or nomadic travelers. It is not just about learning to read and write as a necessity for a dignified human life, or to open the window of infinite knowledge as a first step; it is also about understanding that Sudan is larger than tribal boundaries.


Within these community centers, we will work as educators to enable us all to meet our brothers and sisters from the East, West, North, and South, with a shared desire to create a sense of belonging and a common interest through obtaining good, diverse education—be it academic, vocational, professional, life skills, or community development programs. This aims to create work opportunities and productivity through organized knowledge. Then, goodness will overflow to all Sudanese.


I now understand, more than ever, that when we move towards developing education as a lever for societies, it means recognizing that life is broader, and its choices are more welcoming than building the future through conflicts and carrying arms to achieve narrow interests, as is happening now in Sudan and in other areas in Africa and the world for many years.


Eradicating illiteracy as a societal issue and educating youth and adults with lifelong learning is seen as the gateway to forming a new social, economic and political upbringing. It has become an urgent necessity that cannot tolerate postponement or procrastination if we are to preserve what remains of our beloved Sudan.


I believe that taking deliberate and confident steps on the path of education as an inherent right of all humanity, for developing our capabilities, and for reaching the best versions of ourselves, is the practical way to liberate ourselves from conflicts and wars. It is our primary entry point to learn to respect human rights and achieve the slogan of our revolution (Freedom, Peace and Justice).

Fatima Alrasheed

Fatima is a researcher with an interest in education and development, and an early childhood teacher. She is a facilitator and trainer for teaching skills and adult education. She is currently a Master's student in Planning and Development at the University of Khartoum, where she previously earned a Bachelor’s degree in Economics, Sociology, and Anthropology. You can best describe her as a Big Sister, a loving daughter, and a supportive friend.