Sudan: Education in Darfur - A critical component of humanitarian response


Children in Darfur face many challenges in receiving an education: too few teachers, overcrowded classrooms and limited or no supplies, among others. Youth face even more difficult barriers: secondary schools do not exist in the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps, leaving young people in the camps with nothing to do and little hope for the future. The ever-worsening security situation in Darfur only makes matters worse. In addition, the crisis, which is nearly four years old, is still viewed by the international community as an "emergency," which means that funding for education is not seen as a priority.

This report outlines findings on education from missions taken by the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children in November 2005 and June 2006, and recommends actions the international community can take to ensure that the children and young people of Darfur have a chance to learn while displaced from their homes and communities.

Why Education in Emergencies?

For far too long, education has not been considered a priority issue in humanitarian emergencies. Children and youth traumatized by conflict and displacement have missed the opportunity for the structure, stability and sense of normalcy that schooling provides. Schools can be places where life-saving information-such as landmine awareness and HIV/AIDS prevention-is taught, and investing in education enhances peace, eases the return home and furthers the reconciliation process. Because so many "emergencies" are now multi-year, protracted crises, it is even more critical to ensure that education is fully integrated into the humanitarian response and coordinated with a longer-term development process.

Darfur is particularly illustrative of this need.The conflict there is now nearly four years old, yet the Women's Commission found on missions to Darfur in November 2005 and June 2006 that support for quality and appropriate education for displaced children and youth in Darfur is significantly lacking.The observations and recommendations detailed below are based on meetings with representatives from the Government of Sudan, UN agencies, international and local nongovernmental organizations and teachers, headmasters, students and community leaders.