The civil war in Sudan and the natural disasters of drought, famine and desert forming, led to the displacement of many people. The number of displaced people that now live in and around Khartoum is estimated at 2.2 million, half of whom are under the age of 18. They live in barren, remote peri-urban areas surrounding Khartoum. Displaced children face many challenges in finding ways to live and survive. One of the greatest of these is how to meet their basic needs of food, shelter, health, and education. The majority of displaced children work. Some work and go to school while others just work. Children go to work because life is expensive and they must support themselves and their siblings or even their parents.
In this paper the researcher will discuss how displaced children fight and struggle for their right to education. There are cultural, social, and economic reasons for children's lack of access to education. This paper discusses the problems that displaced children face when they have to combine work and school, and why this leads to a high drop-out rate. The Convention on the Rights of the Child was ratified by Sudan in 1990, but still results are not what were expected and children face many challenges. The paper also argues that if laws concerning child labour in Sudan were complied with and enforced, then child labour would be minimal or non-existent.
This paper will present the experiences of two children aged 13 and 14 who both work and attend school and the challenges that they face in combining work and school. The obstacles that displaced children lace in life will be discussed and recommendations will be presented to help solve the problem.
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Sudan is one of the countries that have undergone severe crises such as war and natural disasters that affected the population and caused deterioration in the political, economic and social status of the country. One of the effects of these crises was the displacement of persons. The most affected by displacement are the women and children. Children are the most vulnerable.
Displaced children lace many challenges in meeting their basic needs. One of the important rights for children according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child signed by Sudan is education, but children must struggle to obtain it and they face many problems in accessing education. Factors hindering education for children are economic, social and cultural. In order to be able to go to school, the majority of displaced children work. They work to support their families and pay their educational expenses. However, combining work and school faces them with numerous problems. In this paper, the researcher would like to examine the difficulties that children lace in education and labour. The paper will discuss the factors that hinder children to make use of their educational rights and why there is a high drop-out rate from schools, especially among girls. The paper also discusses the law in respect of child labour in Sudan and the lack of compliance and enforcement of these measures, allowing employers to use children in hazardous jobs affecting their physical, emotional and menial health.
The researcher will present the case studies of two displaced children in Khartoum.
Before analysing these some background information on Sudan and on displaced children will be given. Then the researcher will relate the legal provisions to the specific situation of children in Mayo Farm camp, and analyse the case studies. The researcher will conclude the paper with some recommendations.
The Case of Akol Deng
Akol Deng is a 13-year-old girl from the Dinka tribe from Southern Sudan. Forced to flee due to the war in the South, she came with her family to Khartoum when she was 3 years old. She now lives with her mother and four younger brothers. She started school at the age of nine and is now in grade four in primary education. Her father died when she was ten and since then she has worked. Her mother told her that her financial contribution is needed. She attends school in the morning from 8am-2pm and works in a restaurant in the evening from 4pm-10pm, and sometimes later. She complains of exhaustion and lack of concentration at school. She has no time to do her homework. Several times, she was beaten by the teacher for not doing work or coming late to school. She failed her mid-term exams and her greatest worry is failing the end of year exams. She works more than six hours in the restaurant and is often treated harshly by her employer for not doing her job properly. She recently was accused of stealing food, although she said that she often eats only one meal per day. On several occasions, she was harassed by other workers in the restaurant.
The Case of Johnson Majuk
Johnson Majuk is a 14-year-old boy from the Nuba tribe in west Sudan. In the early 1990s, when he was very young, he and his family came to Khartoum because of the war and the famine that affected their area. He now lives with his uncle in Mayo Farm camp. The rest of his family are in another camp. He started working at the age of eight, selling water and cigarettes in the market. From the age of 12, after school he has been working in a bakery from 4pm until after midnight. Sometimes he sleeps in the bakery and takes early transport to school. Several times, he skipped school because they needed him to do more work. He likes his job but he said that it is too hard and too risky. Several times, he was injured and once he had serious burns on his hands.
He very much wants to finish school, but he said that it is difficult to combine work and school. He cannot stop working because he is supporting his family and paying his school expenses. The problem, he said, is that each year the school fees increase, but his wage stays the same and this causes him to worry about finishing primary school. The demands of school are becoming increasingly expensive varying from transport, books, uniforms, and stationary, registration, and examination fees. The curriculum needs full time attendance and hard study, but he has no time for that. He failed his examination last year and is afraid he will fail this year too. Several times, he thought of stopping his education.
Sudan has a population of 33.6 million increasing at a rate of 2.64% (National Population Policy, 2002:24-25; CIA, 2004:3). It is considered as one of the least developed and poorest countries of the world. The civil war at the Sudanese border has been especially devastating. An estimated 4.367 million people have been displaced; half of them are living in Khartoum (CIA, 2004: 12).
The system of administrative government, political instability, government policies, and international policies, are the reasons for the poverty in Sudan. Among these was the enforcement of structural adjustment policies that led many companies to close and others to be privatised. This has affected the country's economic situation.
Not only the civil war but also natural disasters such as famine, drought, and floods in the mid 1980s and 1990s contributed the internal displacement of persons (IDPs) to the capital Khartoum and other towns. Khartoum is the most affected state as it is the principal recipient of increasing numbers of displaced persons. It has been receiving IDP at an increasing ratio from 14% in 1956 to 42% in 1993. Accordingly, the population for the year 2003 in Khartoum was 5,351,525; half of these are IDPs. Such a population agglomeration with its continuous increase creates a number of bottlenecks in housing and economic conditions given its limited capacity to accommodate these people (Central Bureau of Statistics 2003: 139, National Population Policy, 2002: 32).
Primary education is one of the fundamental developmental rights of children. It is a "human-development end in itself. It is a means to wider ends: to improve health, to economic growth, to equity and to democracy" (Oxfam, 2000:11). However, education in Sudan receives less than 10% of central government budget, while the military receives more than 20% (Chao 2004, 18). This suggests that the educational budget will not be able to meet the educational needs of children and that the state is prioritising military expansion at the expense of social and economic development.
In Sudan, the literacy rate for males is 57.7% compared to 34.6% for females. Approximately, 25.7% of the population of the Sudan is aged between 10 and 19. for this age group 20.5% of the girls and 12.3% of the boys are illiterate (NCCW, 1998:147). Gender differences in access to education are usually more acute in minority populations such as refugees and internally displaced persons. A study conducted in two of the displaced camps in Khartoum revealed that about 9 out of l0 children between the ages of 6-14 do not attend school due to the inadequacy of existing educational facilities and the dependence of families on child labour for survival. Dropout rates were found to be considerably higher in the displaced camps than in the rest of the country and higher for girls than boys. This is due to early marriage and the overall gender inequalities that contribute towards discrimination against girls (CARE, 1994).
The phenomenon of child labour has been the subject of research and discussions ill the past century and is still ongoing. Previous studies have been dealt with issues such as defining and combating child labour or the role of International organisations (see Myers 2001. White, 1996: Woodhead 1999: Save the Children 2001; Oxfam International 2000 to mention a few). Child labour is "employment for children that harms or exploits them in some way physically, mentally, morally, or blocks access to education. It is work that prevents children front attending school such as unlimited or unrestricted domestic work and work that is dangerous and hazardous to their physical, mental, or emotional health" (Image of Child Lahore, 2005).
States and International Organisations worked together in the agreement and ratification of laws and conventions to eliminate issues that harm children. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) was the first to set standards for the protection of children. Child labour has been a major preoccupation of the ILO since its foundation in 1919. Over the years, the International Labour conference has set number of conventions and recommendations, specifying the minimum age of entry to employment or work. It defined the conditions under which children may be allowed to work. The objectives, principles, and guidelines set out in these international labour standards have been incorporated into national legislation and regulation throughout the world. Technical advisory services and dissemination of information in support of elimination of child labour was given from the ILO, but still child labour is practiced (ILO, 2005; UNICEF, 1999).
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has estimated that 250 million children between the ages of five and fourteen work in developing countries--at least 120 million on a full time basis (Human Right Watch, 2005:1). Most working children in rural areas are in agriculture: many children work as domestics; urban children work in trade and services, with a few in manufacturing and construction. As in other developing countries, child labour is widely used in the Sudan. The ILO estimated that in Sudan in 1995, 1,034,000 children between the ages of 10-14 were economically active -348,000 girls, and 685,000 boys (Worst Form Report, 1995:1). This is one of the major factors contributing to the education problem.
The article would examine the situation of displaced children in Khartoum and the difficulties that they face in combining work and education. Then discuss the problems in meeting their educational rights and the implications of child labour.
The researcher base the following on her own fieldwork carried out from February 2004 November 2004 in four main camps in the urban and peri urban areas of the three main cities in Sudan: Khartoum, Omdurman, and Khartoum North. Each camp contained more than 100,000 persons. The findings presented in this paper are on one camp namely Mayo Farm camp. The findings were based from the wider research on NGOs and children's rights in Sudan.
Various methods were used in the research, among them interviews and focused group discussion. Interviews were conducted with the children age 10-18. A sample of 129 children from the camps were selected.
Focused group discussions and informal gatherings with children were carried out to get an in depth view of the situation. Topics discussed concerned health and education. The researcher conducted 30 focused group discussions from the four areas consisting of 125 boys and 166 girls making a total of 291 informants. The number of children in each discussion group ranged from 5 to 12 children.
Internally Displaced Children in Khartoum
The poverty in Sudan is the chief obstacle to a child's well being. Out of a population of 33,6 million, 44% are under the age of fifteen and each year over 100,000 children die because of natural disasters or political causes. Children under the age of 18 in Khartoum were estimated at 2,464,498, half of them are displaced children (Central Bureau Statistics projection 2003:139). The country lacks sufficient resources to provide food, health and education for the displaced.
A World Food Program survey in 1999 found that 80% of the displaced persons were extremely poor, four fifth of their income is spent on food, but even so only half of their nutritional requirements were met. Fewer than 10% received food aid (World Refugee Survey, 2002:3). A study of urban problems surveyed four IDPs camps around Khartoum. It concluded that nutritional status of the IDPs is poor. A displaced person takes an average of only one poor meal per day. Although food supplements are distributed to pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers by NGOs, most of the provided flour and sugar are resold on the market due to an acute need for cash. The study also indicated poor health of internally displaced children. It reported the prevalence o f epidemic diseases such as gastro intestinal diseases, malaria, anemia, skin problems and sexually tralasmitted diseases (al-Bathani, 1998).
The Safe Motherhood Survey of 1999 estimated the under five-mortality rate and the infant mortality rates in northern Sudan at 132 and 82 per 1000 respectively. The infant mortality rate in Sudan for male is 64.8 deaths per 1000 live births and for females 63.26 deaths per 1000 live births (CIA 2004:4).
In the hard life of displaced children, education is an important aspect. My findings showed that 75% of children who go to school said that education is a priority for them. Their ambition is to finish school in order to raise their standard of living. Education, they said, enables a person to gain more confidence, self reliance and self-esteem. However, the facilities and services for education are insufficient and discourage a positive attitude iii children.
Mayo Farm Camp in Khartoum State
Mayo Farm camp is located 8 km south of the capital Khartoum and has a population of more than 100 thousand; half of them are under 18 years old. An estimated 4000 school aged children in the camp are illiterate. The camp population consists of 60% from the upper Nile, 20% equatorial, 5% Nuba and 7% Fur. The camp has 10 primary schools, 2 health centers, 8 mosques, 42 churches 4 informal meditation centres and 2 markets, 20 hand pumps of which only 3 are working. There are no latrines or sanitation (Humanitarian Aid Commission 2001:2).
Unlike the other camps Mayo Fatal Camp has a limited surface area and there is extreme overcrowding and congestion as a result. Houses are made of petrol drums, plastic bags, animal waste and mud. There is no electricity iii the area and no running water. Water is brought by donkey-carts at very high prices. The services available are insufficient for the number of people living iii the camp.
Education in Mayo Farm Camp
NGOs assisted iii building the ten schools in the camp since 1990. Five of them were handed over to the state and became state schools, while the other five are still community-based. Community based schools are organised by the displaced themselves and funded by NGOs. The majority of the teachers are from the community and paid by the supporting NGOs. The slate assisted in providing land for the construction of these schools, but the community had find the funding for the school infrastructure and facilities. The allocation of funds is a long process that involved administrative protocols between the state and NGOs. The community fought for the construction of the schools, but in the last analysis NGOs managed to play an important role iii school infrastructure and facilities. The advantage of community-based schools is that they have lower registration fees, but the facilities are inadequate and, unlike the slate schools, they are not easily accessible. Both Akol and Johnson go to community school because they are much cheaper than state schools.
The state sets exams and obliges all schools in Sudan to pay examination fees. It also sets a fixed cost for books, but the parent council of each school sets a fixed registration fee for the academic year. This registration fee increases each year. The NGOs in Mayo support community schools in infrastructure, teacher's training and salary and the provision of minimal facilities such as books. Nevertheless, educational facilities are not accessible to all children.
The children in the camps find extreme difficulty iii obtaining a decent education. The most important problem is financial. This is a major factor for all children and families. More than 90% of the children interviewed complained of the high school fees, wanting free education or heavily subsidised fees. The problem is not only the registration fees, but they also have to pay for books, uniforms, stationary, transport, and breakfast. Even if they find the money, the facilities and educational system are not encouraging.
School Infrastructure and Facilities
School facilities in the camp are inadequate. Schools have a capacity of up to 500 children, but in Rahma School, for example, in the year 2004-2005 there were 1006 children enrolled. There are not enough chairs and desks and children sit on the ground. Some classrooms are still made of straw or canes and there is no electricity or water.
The lack of sanitation is one of the problems and one of the factors that cause girls to leave school. They have no where to go to relieve themselves and feel embarrassed to leave the premises in the presence of their male classmates. Sometimes they do not relieve themselves all day, such is their embarrassment. This naturally leads to frustration and lack of concentration.
The provision of food is a similar problem. In the 1990s, the schools supported by NGOs used to provide breakfast for the children. Since 1998, this has ceased due to lack of funds. This was followed by a drop in attendance.
A further inadequacy is the lack of books. NGOs assisted in provision of books, but children have to pay a minimal rental fee and return the books at end of the year. Books are shared between two students. Books are always delivered late at schools, normally arriving six months after the start of the academic year. The reason for this is the administrative procedures between the state and NGOs.
The standard of education of the schools varies greatly and has an influence on the parents' or children decision whether to prioritise schooling or not. Many teachers are not properly qualified, having barely finished secondary school. They are unmotivated by the low salary, which is almost invariably late in being paid, and the inadequacy of teaching materials. Teachers treat students in a harsh and aggressive way using corporal punishment regularly. This is in contravention of the CRC. It can have an effect on children's attendance at schools and is likely to cause psychological and physical disorders particularly for girls. There are more male teachers than females, a further factor discouraging girls attending school.
According to a study carried out by UNICEF the ratio of boys to girls enrolled in school in Mayo camp is 73:27 in 1998 (Loveless 1999:38). Families prefer to educate boys rather than girls. An educated boy is expected to support the family after he finishes school, but a girl will marry and the investment in education will be diverted to the benefit of her new family. There is a widespread attitude that it is inappropriate to educate girls.
Most of the schools ill the camp are co-educational. Many parents disapprove of their girls going to a mixed school, due to traditional belief that co-education can create dangerous mixing of the sexes. They fear loss of respect or even pregnancy. Consequently families prefer girls to stay at home to take care of their other siblings or to get married. In fact, Akol was lucky that her family allowed her to go to a co-educational school. Nevertheless, the majority of girls who do go to school still have, like Akol, to work to pay for their education or to support the family, in addition to the domestic work that they perform at homes.
School is a priority for boys, but even they have to work. Boys like Johnson feel that they have a double load and are exhausted by work and school. Their educational achievement is limited by the fact that they are working long hours when they are not in school. Boys also often engage in harmful work that can affect them physically. As Johnson mentioned, several times he had injuries on his hands, with the possibility of more serious injuries.
The inaccessibility, inadequacies, incompetence of teaching and educational facilities are just a few examples violations of children's right to education.
Child Labour Laws from a Sudanese Context
Child labour laws to protect children exist in Sudan, but they are not enforced. The labour law of 1997 differentiated between children below 16 and youth 16-18. Children are not to be employed for risky and harmful work such as, working with heavy weights, with steam containers and pressure pots, iron furnaces, underground or underwater, in mines or stone quarries. Nor are they to work with harmful or poison materials, ionised radiations, or on engine maintenance. Neither children nor youth should be employed between 8pm and 6am. They should complete a medical examination before starting employment. A child can work for 4 hours only under the supervision of his/her guardian. Employment is on condition of the provision of valid identification cards. Employers must inform the authorities concerned or the labour office about any children seems to be involved in delinquent activities (Labour Law, 1997).
Youth can work but they should not in hazardous conditions or any that affect their health. Their working day should not be more than six hours with a one-hour test period. Youth should not work overtime or during their vacation or public holidays. Employers should train youth before employing them and should give them their monthly salary cash in hand.
There are children and youth labour laws in Sudan, but these are not enforced and are, in fact, in contravention of the CRC. This specifies that children are those under the age of 18 and they are to be protected from engaging in hazardous employment that can affect their health, education, physical, mental, or social development. In Sudan children can legally be employed from the age of 16 and this is likely to have implications for children's education. It can affect their educational performance and likely increases the discontinuity in education. Primary education in Sudan is up to the age of 15 and requires full attendance at schools, but displaced children are in a critical position because they often start school at a late age, finishing primary education at 18 or later. This is because majority of children work and do not continue school regularly and it is too difficult working and schooling at the same time.
Although the law specifies the age, time, and type of work children may do, these provisions are not monitored. Some employers take the advantage of this by employing children in dangerous work for long hours without rest periods. The low wage paid to children, compared to adults is an incentive for this abuse. They do not take into consideration that children are vulnerable and weak and can stiffer health problems in the long run as a result of their work.
The case studies, combined with literature research and interviews with children, point to various issues that constitute obstacles for children in education and labour.
Economic pressure on children to work is a problem that conflicts with education. Children find themselves struggling between education and work and probably they stop their education. Several times Johnson thought of stopping school, but not work.
The influence that families exert on children to work can cause children to despise their parents and feel that they are not supportive, as the work atmosphere is harder and more dangerous for children. As Akol mentioned, her mother demanded that she has to work to contribute financially to the family.
There are cultural issues and gender discrimination in the provision of education. The social pressure that girls experience from their families and from Society is a problem that affects their personalities. Often girls are looked on as a risk that might bring the family honour into question and create problems for the family. The traditional beliefs and attitudes towards girls are hindering girls" educational development. However. they are not applied to prevent to paid employment in a mixed environment, which suggests that economic considerations play a considerable rule.
Violence is frequently used on children al school and the workplace. The case of Akol shelved that she was often beaten at work because of stealing and at school because of arriving late. Children are frequently beaten for such reasons as disobedience, unfinished work, or laziness. This can affect the child's development, personality, and behaviour. It is likely to lead to lack of confidence and unhealthy thinking, and even to mental disorders.
Sexual harassment is ore: of the greatest problems facing children, particularly girls. There are cases of children being sexually assaulted by their employers, fellow workers and customers. This can have an impact both psychologically and physically. Moreover, it exposes them to sexual transmitted diseases, including AIDS, or unwanted pregnancies. The problem is that girls do not report such incidents.
Physical weakness and physical ill health are two of the results of combining work and education. In the case of Akol and Johnson, the children complain of exhaustion and fatigue. This is likely to affect their health contributing to serious problems such as malnutrition.
Children are likely to lose interest in education if they work. They can become discouraged about going to school. Children's rights to education and conditions of labour are violated and abused. They are used as cheap labourers, sexually harassed, physically, psychologically and mentally affected.
Conclusion and Recommendations
This paper has presented a few of the challenges that children experience in meeting their educational rights. The point is not the ratification of the CRC and other conventions, but the implementation, monitoring, and enforcement of strategies in Sudan. Children's rights have been acknowledged theoretically, but the practice falls far short.
I would recommend that the state and NGOs bodies co-operate in combating the phenomena of child labour, facilitating education of displaced children and to make primary education, school infrastructure, and facilities accessible to all displaced children. This would probably lessen the drop-out rate and the incidence of child labour. Community awareness of the importance of education to their children, especially girls, needs to be raised. State and NGOs intervention in promoting issues such as education and health are needed. An increase in budget for education from the state is likely to lower the drop-out rate from schools in Sudan. If the system of education in terms of methods of teaching was more protective and supportive, children might be more encouraged to attend school. The enhancement and monitoring of child labour laws by the governmental and non-governmental institution concerned and the provision of penalties for infringement might decrease the incidents of child labour in Sudan.
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Azza Omerelfaroug Abdelmoneium, (Institute of Gender Studies, Radboud University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands)…