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Education in Sudan

 University of El Geneina Sudan culture and media
Students of the University of El Geneina. Photo Albert Gonzalez Farran/UNAMID

Sudan’s pre-independence public education system was designed by the colonial power to produce civil servants and professionals. Post-independence, the system underwent many changes, aimed at meeting the country’s dynamic economic and social needs. Today, education in Sudan is free and compulsory for children aged six to 13. Primary education lasts eight years, followed by three years of secondary school. Students can choose between two academic tracks: scientific-literary and technical (agricultural-industrial-commercial).

The language of education at all levels is Arabic. Schools are concentrated in urban areas. Primary school enrollment in 2001 was estimated by the World Bank at 46% of eligible students and 21% of eligible secondary school students. Enrollment varies widely, falling below 20% in some provinces.

Besides public education, Egyptian educational missions and missionary schools have contributed a great deal to education in Sudan, with activities extending to a number of provinces.

Private education at primary and secondary levels was introduced in the 1950s, and spread quickly after the deterioration in public education. Although there are no exact figures, there are known to be several expensive and prestigious private schools in Khartoum, accommodating pupils from upper-class families and teaching in English.

Higher education emerged in 1902 with the establishment of Gordon Memorial College. It changed its name to the Khartoum University College and broke away from the University of London in 1956, becoming the University of Khartoum.

Before independence, several educational institutions were established to award diplomas to government employees who had completed secondary school. One of these was the Khartoum Technical Institute, the leading centre of technical education in Sudan. It became the Khartoum Polytechnic Institute in 1975 and was given university status in 1990, becoming the Sudan University of Science and Technology.

Cairo University (Khartoum Branch) was established in 1955 and renamed Al-Neelain University in 1993. In 1975, the universities of Juba and Gezira were established.

After the ‘revolution of higher education’ of 1990, the number of government universities jumped from five to 35 in 2010. At the same time, higher education became a field of private investments and tens of private universities and colleges were opened in all parts of the country, with a noticeable concentration in Khartoum. The number of private universities and colleges is now estimated to be around 61. This tremendous upsurge resulted in a shocking drop in government expenditure on public education, accounting for only 1% in 2010 and 2% in 2011.

The rapid expansion of higher education institutions was accompanied by a marked deterioration in the quality of the education provided, and some 45% of graduates is unemployed.

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