Sudan is a lower-middle-income country with a fast-growing population of 41.8 million. The country’s school-aged population accounts for one third of total population and continues to grow, contributing to the increasing demand for basic services - including education.

The acute economic crisis the country experiences, fueled by high inflation and massive currency devaluation, puts Sudan’s children at a high risk of dropping out of school. This risk is echoed by the recent humanitarian appeal issued by OCHA.

A political crisis erupted in recent months, culminating in the removal of the government after nearly 30 years in power. With the help of the international humanitarian community, the new transitional government is making efforts to steer the country out of the crisis while paving the way to restore stability.

The recent lifting of sanctions is encouraging partners to reestablish development assistance. GPE has been main funding source for Sudan’s education sector in the midst of the crisis.

Achievements and challenges

Over the last decade, Sudan has witnessed increased access to education. Between 2008 and 2018, the total number of schools - both public and private - increased by 2,800, allowing one million more children to attend school.

Similarly, the gross enrollment rate in pre-primary education reached 43% in 2017 - ten percentage points above average for sub-Saharan Africa. The net enrollment rates at primary level improved from 56% in 2013 to 60% in 2018.

Despite these impressive achievements, several challenges remain to educating all children in the country. An estimated 3 million school-age children were out of school in 2014, one of the largest numbers in the world. While 52% of those children never attended school, 48% did but dropped out. Low retention and high dropout rates, as a result of early marriage, distance to schools and the high opportunity cost of attending school, among other reasons, have undermined Sudan’s efforts to implement universal basic education.

Emergency funds to respond to the crisis

In response to the country’s deteriorating economic conditions, and to offset the risk this poses to education services, GPE has approved a request by the Government of Sudan for a grant of US$11.8 million as accelerated funding.

The grant will support a school grants program for one year while other funding is being lined up, along with training of school staff in planning to improve learning conditions, with the ultimate goal of promoting school access, retention and learning.

A total of 16,500 schools - 5.4 million children - in all 18 states of the country will benefit from the program.

Advocacy on the importance of keeping children in school

The school grants program aims to incentivize parents’ engagement to reduce the risk of children – especially girls – dropping out. In Sudan, despite free basic education, families need to pay for school-related expenses such as uniforms, textbooks and bags, to name a few.

Given the precarious economic situation, many vulnerable families may not be able to continue paying for these items, which will more than likely result in pulling their children out of school.

Therefore, school grants will fund the acquisition of basic learning materials - such as stationary, classroom furniture and equipment – to support the learning environment while attracting and retaining students and teachers. In addition, sanitary napkins will be provided to adolescent girls in the upper grades in an effort to encourage them to stay in school.

Along with the provision of learning materials, the school grants aim to support teachers (via in cash or in-kind support) to counterbalance the negative impact high inflations have had on teacher’s salaries. If unaddressed, schools face the risk that teachers may leave to find alternative livelihoods.

GPE’s US$11.8 million grant for Sudan will play a key role in attracting and retaining students and teachers in schools, while strengthening the community’s role in school management and planning.

Strong education systems begin with accurate data

To establish assessment systems and strengthen the capacity of the Ministry of Education to ensure that data on learning outcomes is available, for both planning and monitoring of interventions, GPE's support focused on building three key systems:

  1. Teacher management database: Completed in 2016, it includes data on teachers’ qualifications, years of experience and career grades as well as teaching assignments. This dataset was instrumental to prioritize the areas most in need for in-service and pre-service training and for policy and strategies at the locality, state and federal levels.
  2. National learning assessment: In 2015, GPE supported the Ministry of Education to conduct the first national assessment of early grade learning. The results were used to inform improvements as well as a school grants program, an initiative also supported by GPE. A second assessment, of grades 3 and 6, was conducted in 2018.
  3. Annual school census/rapid surveys: Conducted regularly during the last four years of the GPE program, these surveys collected data on school type, location, student enrollment by grade, teachers and qualifications, to name a few. These surveys currently provide the most reliable and consistent information on basic and secondary education in Sudan.

GPE interventions lead to results

Interventions supported by GPE achieved impressive results: sector planning improved and helped the government prioritize interventions; JSRs improved policy dialogue; and a new education sector plan for 2018-2022 was developed.

Thanks to efforts of the government of Sudan, GPE and partners, more children are in school and learning, and systems to assess learning have been established, putting educational performance on a steady upward path.

Furthermore, to ensure the sustainability of the Sudanese education system, GPE has helped empower communities to take an active role in the education process. Communities have been encouraged to identify their own needs and oversee school construction and resource mobilization, which has led to a decrease in construction costs and an increase in community ownership.

According to preliminary results from a national learning assessment, schools supported by GPE achieved better learning outcomes than those not supported, clearly demonstrating the effectiveness of the GPE program. Furthermore, between 2014-2017 the oral reading fluency in students attending GPE-supported schools improved from 12 words per minute to 15.5 and the percentage of non-readers decreased from 47% to 42%.

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