This page reports back on the Education workshop at the Sudan Solidarity Emergency Conference. We have collected contributions from the conference itself with messages sent to the organisers and resources for trade unionists and activists who want to build solidarity. If you’d like to get involved in building networks of solidarity between educators in Sudan, Britain and beyond please use the form at the bottom of the page to sign up.
Chair: Louise Regan, National Executive Member, National Education
- Gamariea Omer, Representative of Sudanese Teachers Committee
- Modather Momed Omer, Learning and Development Expert
Gamariea Omer is a representative of the Sudanese Teachers’ Committee and a Technical Education teacher. She told the conference:
“We expected that the Sudanese Revolution would bring about radical and fundamental change, and that development would take place through education, enabling democracy to become rooted during the transitional period. We thought the transitional period would lead to the development of education, and the Sudanese Teachers’ Committee had a plan to bring about radical change, but Al-Burhan blocked that road through the military coup of 25 October. It is clear that education will not develop under military rule or dictatorship.
The military regime, and especially the previous dictatorship under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, interferred constantly in the curriculum. Technical Education, which is vitally important to development, almost completely collapsed … Education budgets have been cut, even during the Transitional Government, although the Education Ministry should be providing a service to all. Education is a right and should be free, according to the Constitution.”
Both private and public sectors suffer from many challenges, Gamariea added. “There are serious problems facing education in the private sector in terms of corruption, lack of rights, lack of resources, and lack of effective organisation and the damage done by marketisation. The public sector also suffers from corrupt practices and is very technically poor.
Sudanese people need technical assistance and education, especially in the area of restructuring and reforming the current organisations to make them effective. We need a scientific approach to recruitment rather than nepotism. Education needs to be sorted out if Sudan is to develop. If we do this we can have more efficient public sector organisations.”
Modather Momed Omer spoke about education in terms of learning and development of community organisation. “The current leaders are leading by popularity, not by election. They have good will, integrity and passion. They are ready to bear the consequences of opposing dictatorship. But in terms of keeping people together they were not so effective. Limited leadership capabilities and not coming through by election. There is a lack of awareness of public service principles like transparency and conflict of interest.
There are major areas to develop. How to develop competent leadership, not just commitment? If we can help people to rebuild their organisations, their ability to build democratic organisations, elections, ethical ways of leading societies that will be a major advance.”
The workshop watched a short film giving the history of the union and how it was involved heavily in the revolution and the difficulties the union faced due to the military coup previously and the latest coup on 25 October. It ended stating, “the unions are fighting back and they are trying to do their best to be a true union and end the military coup.”
A speaker from the UCU (University and College Union) said, “Our union does a lot of international work. Educators are often on the front line in many different countries because of their importance in campaigning and educating about democracy. “
The question of twinning was raised as a means of building direct links between Sudanese unions and unions here.
Birair Yousif from the Roundtable UK explained, “the main idea behind the conference is to get connected together with the trade unions. We should have recommendations that can strengthen this idea. What can we do from UK trade unions to support trade unions back home? They need help. Need to be connected directly and maybe in other countries across Europe. We want to take support from this room to support the trade unions, because the teachers are suffering a lot.”
Vicky Blake, President of the University and College Union (UCU) told the workshop, “we are encouraging our union branches and regional structures to invite Sudanese speakers along to develop those relationships. We can do this with other union structures like trades councils. Even if it’s only for 5-10 minute talks we can learn and spread the campaign here and take it further. Having networks, knowing how we can make requests and so on is important. People will be extremely keen. In the first place it’s about making connections”.
>> Watch Vicky’s speech to the conference plenary here https://menasolidaritynetwork.com/2021/12/08/sudan-solidarity-conference-vicky-blake-ucu-video/
Louise Regan, Membership and Equalities Executive member for the National Education Union agreed this was a good idea: “we can also do this in the NEU and invite Sudanese educators along to our district meetings.”
Modather Momed Omer, Learning and Development Expert proposed, “we need formalised communication channels. …because if we have that things will evolve in practical ways of giving a hand to the fight in Sudan.”
Another speaker from Sudan spoke about technical education in Sudan and vocational education, “the Sudan government did not care about education in general. The syllabus was very bad and didn’t help the students. The school environment is very poor. Teacher training is poor because the government doesn’t care. Teachers need pre graduation and post graduation training and technical assistance.”
Ten-year old Alaa Abd-al-Kareem, who is Sudanese-British, sent a video message to the conference, contrasting the environment and facilities in UK schools with the lack of basic rights and facilities for her brothers and sisters in Sudan. She asked the conference to put children’s education and schools at the top of the agenda, as the foundation for political participation and equality. She said, “Please take this message as a crying voice asking for help to support my brothers and sisters in Sudan. We need an education which creates a better, more peaceful world. I would like to thank the organisers of the conference for building solidarity with our on-going revolution in Sudan, which stands for a united, democratic Sudan of equality and justice.”
What you can do next:
- Sign up here to register your interest in joining a working group for educators to exchange experiences of organising to defend education and build trade unions in Sudan and Britain https://forms.gle/aYk9QqHZUDfz1Zzf6
- Can you invite a Sudanese speaker to your union branch? Let us know via this form: https://forms.gle/dem7BYNUb2Fo96c97
- If you are a Sudanese educator please tell us if you’re willing to speak at a union meeting in Britain – email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Share this report and background resources with your colleagues