Oct 24, 2005 (KHARTOUM) — Sudanese authorities have forced private schools to close during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan for the first time, school staff said on Monday.
|A Sudanese girl listens to her teacher as she attends a class along with over 150 other girls at Rumbek primary school in Southern Sudan April 19, 2004. (Reuters).|
Government officials denied the closures but several schools Reuters spoke to said they had been forced to shut down.
The ministry of education said this was a normal holiday period as part of the government school year, but the private schools in Khartoum use a different system and say they have lost valuable lesson time for their students.
"We objected to it," Barry Birch, headmaster of a private Christian school Unity, told Reuters."We cannot afford to lose the lesson time."
Birch said this was the first time the government was forcing all schools to close during Ramadan. Asked what reason the ministry gave him for the forced closure of the school, he replied: "They said Ramadan."
He said, however, an appeal to keep two years of students in school to take English exams had been granted.
"That is positive, but the rest isn’t," he said. "And the parents, including the Muslim parents, are not happy," he said.
Unity is a Christian school, but two-thirds of the students are Muslim.
Sudan implements Islamic sharia law, a catalyst for more than two decades of civil war between the mostly Christian, animist south against the Islamist government in Khartoum.
Under a January peace deal sharia has been lifted in the south, but is still applied in the north and the capital, where many Christians also live.
The ministry of education said the month-long period from Oct. 15 was a normal holiday period after exams in public schools. But officials declined to say why this was now being enforced in private schools.