Students in the newly built classroom in the Um Algean school, Nertiti, Central Darfur. Credit: OCHA
A real surprise greeted children attending the Um Algean school in a small mountain village of Nertiti in Darfur at the beginning of the school year. After years in temporary spaces, the old straw and clay had been replaced by eight spanking new classrooms, complete with chalk boards, chairs and desks, boy and girl latrines, and drinking water.
The new school facilities were quite a transformation for the 850 students, most of whom are internally displaced: “It rains a lot in this part of Darfur. In the rainy season, the children and teachers would be huddling together under the straw roof to try and avoid getting wet, and when it was hot, the classrooms didn’t provide much respite from the heat,” said Abdalla Omer Hassan, one of the school’s teachers.
Funded by the Sudan Humanitarian Fund (SHF), the school was built by Catholic Relief Services (CRS), an international NGO working in Sudan’s Darfur region, as part of the broader humanitarian response in the area. Pooled funds such as SHF help ensure that predictable and timely humanitarian assistance can reach people affected by new crises in this vast Sub-Saharan African nation of about 41 million. Due to its flexible nature, the fund can provide NGOs such as CRS with resources to address the most pressing humanitarian needs.
The old classroom in the Um Algean school in Nertiti, Central Darfur, before being rebuilt thanks to the SHF. Credit: OCHA
Parents and community are keen to ensure that the children get the best possible start in life at Um Algean school. The community has taken it upon itself to construct permanent staff rooms and offices for the teachers to have a good environment in which to plan lessons and do all the work that is involved in running a school, outside of teaching.
Securing education opportunities for displaced children in a conducive learning environment is vital to providing children – despite challenges related to displacement – with a good start in life. “In the old open classrooms, children were often distracted by what was going on around them – people passing by on the road and the voices of teachers and children from adjacent classrooms. These new classrooms will mean that children can concentrate on their education properly,” said Hania Abdalla Ishag, one of the teachers.
The school headmaster Ramadan Ahmed Sulieman proudly talked of the excitement among teachers and children at the prospect of using real classrooms. Ahmed has been at the school since 2006 when it was started. ““We are looking forward to a new era in this school,” he concluded.