A Call for Solidarity and Humanitarian Aid for Sudanese Students and Youth Affected by War
Title: A Call for Solidarity and Humanitarian Aid for Sudanese Students and Youth Affected by War
The All-Africa Students Union, European Students Union, World Assembly of Youth and Global Student Forum stand in solidarity with the General Sudanese Students Union. We strongly condemn the atrocities committed against civilians and students due to the ongoing conflict in Sudan, and we call for urgent action to protect their right to education.
Sudan has been plagued by violence and instability since the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir in 2019, which sparked an uprising and a power sharing agreement between the military and civilian forces. However, on 15th of April 2023, an armed conflict broke out between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which has since led to a number of serious human rights violations, including, according to the United Nations1, the brutal crackdown on protesters and civilians, and the killing, raping, and torturing of civilians by the RSF. As a result, the conflict has created a humanitarian crisis, with thousands of people killed and displaced.
The Impact on Education and Students
The war in Sudan has had a devastating impact on students particularly. Schools and Universities have been forced to close, hence students are unable to continue their studies and their safety and well-being have been compromised. This has led to the interruption of courses, the delay of studies, and the postponement of their graduation indefinitely, leaving students uncertain about their future. Moreover, the ongoing war has led to a great number of primary, secondary schools and universities to be looted, damaged, or subject to military occupation. For example, the University of Khartoum, Al Neelain University, the Sudan University of Science and Technology, and the Ahfad University for Women, have been forced to close down due to the ongoing conflict.2 Put into context, the closure of these
1 https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2023/08/un-experts-alarmed-reported-widespread-use rape-and-sexual-violence-against
schools and universities, in Sudan, has displaced about 2.5 million students3. This has consequently stifled education in Sudan and left the education system in limbo about how to move forward and provide essential services.
Previously, the successive conflicts in Sudan put nearly 3 million children and youth out of school. The situation is likely to worsen with the current conflict ongoing in Sudan. The education gap that has existed is likely to worsen if the conflict does not end anytime soon. The case is especially dire for marginalised groups including persons with disabilities and young girls living in affected zones.
Many students and young people have been caught in the crossfire and have become victims of the war.4 Hence, students in Khartoum and neighbouring territories have been advised to avoid roaming the streets amidst the ongoing conflict. Additionally, Khartoum is home to many displaced students from other regions who have fled violence and persecution. These students face additional challenges such as lack of access to basic services, documentation, and protection.
This situation extends to international students of around 24,000 male and female students from 91 countries that have been studying in Sudan, hosting mostly African students from countries such as Egypt, Nigeria, Chad, South Sudan, Kenya and Somalia or from the Middle East. Sudanese universities attract students who cannot afford education in countries with high tuition fees and offer crucial courses such as Arabic language and Islamic studies.5 Moreover, universities in Sudan receive a large portion of their funding from international students. However, the conflict has forced students to leave the country with a high probability of not returning. Future recruitment will become more challenging due to the devastation and impacts of the ongoing conflict. The war has worsened a series of setbacks Sudanese education has been facing, such as an ongoing crisis due to the lack of qualified teachers, low vaccination rates and the legacy of Covid 19.
5 https://www.al-fanarmedia.org/2023/06/sudans-war-disrupts-universities-leaving-more-students-in limbo/
The burning of Al-Mashriq University in Khartoum is a tragic example of the war crimes that have left the country devastated. The destruction of the University’s main campus, along with students’ records, projects, and computers, has left the future of these students uncertain. This is a deliberate act of violence against education and a violation of the Safe Schools Declaration.
The Omdurman Ahlia University in Sudan is another example of a higher education institution that has been the target of deliberate attacks. A fire that was believed to have been started by looters erupted at the University and resulted in thousands of historical records, research papers, and books being destroyed, leaving Sudan’s history archives and culture in ruins.
In light of this dire situation, we urge the international community to take immediate and effective measures to support Sudanese students and safeguard their right to education. We demand that:
● The responsible parties stop their attacks on civilians and students, respect human rights and international humanitarian law (Safe Schools Declaration6), and withdraw from educational institutions and facilities.
● The Sudanese authorities hold accountable those responsible for the violence and ensure justice for the victims.
● The human right to education is protected and prioritised in any peace negotiations and political settlements.
● The humanitarian agencies provide humanitarian emergency assistance to students affected by the war, such as food, water, shelter, health care, psychosocial support, and protection.
● The educational authorities facilitate the evacuation of students from conflict zones and opening safe passages to ensure their safety and security.
● The academic institutions help in digitalising/securing proof of secondary and tertiary education qualifications for students who have lost or damaged their records due to the war.
● The scholarship providers offer Students At Risk scholarships for Sudanese students at risk who wish to continue their studies abroad or in safe areas within Sudan.
6 The Safe Schools Declaration. https://ssd.protectingeducation.org/
● Nations worldwide, especially those with established educational infrastructures, expedite and facilitate the process of granting refugee status to displaced Sudanese students.
● The international community allocates funds and resources for the protection, repair, and rehabilitation of schools, universities, and other educational institutions that have been damaged or destroyed during the conflict.
● International organisations, NGOs, and development partners collaborate to establish temporary learning centres in safe zones to ensure that learning continues.
● Global educational institutions, inter-governmental and civil society organisations launch awareness and advocacy campaigns highlighting the plight of Sudanese students.
We stand with our fellow students and their relatives in Sudan who are facing unimaginable hardships and risks. We call on all stakeholders to join us in solidarity and support for their cause. Education is a human right that must be protected at all times. No student should be denied their right to learn or live in peace.