Making schools in Sudan safe during the coronavirus pandemic
As the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country like anywhere else, the Sudanese Federal Ministry of Education closed all 16,328 public schools on 15 March 2020. After one year of closure, most of the basic schools in Sudan opened in March 2021, except for few states that are affected by increasing inter-communal violence like West Darfur.
To ensure children could return to school safely, a national water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in School Assessment was carried out in 2019. It was found that nearly 55 per cent of schools do not have access to improved water and 49 per cent do not have access to improved sanitation. Even though sanitation and hygiene are key in the prevention of communicable diseases like COVID-19, only 9.9 per cent of all sample schools were equipped with handwashing facilities with water and soap at the time of assessment and a majority of schools do not have standard procedures for safe treatment of both solid waste and sludge from sanitation facilities.
The challenge in ensuring the safe reopening of schools was huge. With competing priorities and limited resources in the country, the UNICEF WASH section had to think creatively and find a solution that would enable more schools to be opened while limiting the spread of COVID-19. As a result, a COVID-19 SAFE School Kit was developed in partnership with the Ministry of Education allowing for more schools to open safely.
The COVID-19 Safe School kit was also specifically designed for the school context in Sudan, with considerations to the flooring that typically exists in primary schools and the materials used in schools for cleaning or disinfection purposes. The cost of this kit is US$183. The total cost of the WASH package of support (including water tanks) is about $300 per school, costing $0.75 per child. About 1,000 schools were targeted, representing about 12.5 per cent of schools without access to safe water.
According to the Sudan Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO), 2.7 million school-aged children need education assistance in 2021. Of these, 2.2 million children (1.21 million girls and 990,000 boys) will cost US$125 million (2021 Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan). The education sector also reports that about 1.8 million vulnerable children at schools are experiencing a crisis, emergency or catastrophic levels of food insecurity, putting them at a high risk of dropping out of school or having their education affected if they are not adequately supported. As of 30 March, the education sector has received about $698,000 (0.5 per cent) of their HRP requirement, according to the Financial Tracking Service (FTS).
Read more on the COVID-19 Safe School Kit for safe learning in Schools