Country Listing

Sudan Table of Contents


Girls' Education

Traditionally, girls' education was of the most rudimentary kind, frequently provided by a khalwa, or religious school, in which Quranic studies were taught. Such basic schools did not prepare girls for the secular learning mainstream, from which they were virtually excluded. Largely through the pioneering work of Shaykh Babikr Badri, the government had provided five elementary schools for girls by 1920. Expansion was slow, however, given the bias for boys and the conservatism of Sudanese society, with education remaining restricted to the elementary level until 1940. It was only in 1940 that the first intermediate school for girls, the Omdurman Girls' Intermediate School, opened. By 1955, ten intermediate schools for girls were in existence. In 1956, the Omdurman Secondary School for Girls, with about 265 students, was the only girls' secondary school operated by the government. By 1960, 245 elementary schools for girls had been established, but only 25 junior secondary or general schools and 2 upper-secondary schools. There were no vocational schools for girls, only a Nurses' Training College with but eleven students, nursing not being regarded by many Sudanese as a respectable vocation for women. During the 1960s and 1970s, girls' education made considerable gains under the education reforms that provided 1,086 primary schools, 268 intermediate schools, and 52 vocational schools for girls by 1970, when girls' education claimed approximately one-third of the total school resources available. Although by the early 1990s the numbers had increased in the north but not in the war-torn south, the ratio had remained approximately the same.

This slow development of girls' education was the product of the country's tradition. Parents of Sudanese girls tended to look upon girls' schools with suspicion if not fear that they would corrupt the morals of their daughters. Moreover, preference was given to sons, who by education could advance themselves in society to the pride and profit of the family. This girls could not do; their value was enhanced not at school but at home, in preparation for marriage and the dowry that accompanied the ceremony. The girl was a valuable asset in the home until marriage, either in the kitchen or in the fields. Finally, the lack of schools has discouraged even those who desired elementary education for their daughters.

This rather dismal situation should not obscure the successful efforts of schools such as the Ahfad University College in Omdurman, founded by Babikr Badri as an elementary school for girls in the 1920s. By 1990 it had evolved as the premier women's university college in Sudan with an enrollment of 1,800. It had a mixture of academic and practical programs, such as those that educated women to teach in rural areas.

Data as of June 1991