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Sudan, officially known as the Republic of the Sudan, is a large Arab nation in North Africa (sometimes considered to be part of the Middle East), with a total geographic area of over 728,000 square miles. The country shares borders with Egypt in the north, the Red Sea in the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia in the east, South Sudan in the south, the Central African Republic in the southwest, Chad in the west and Libya in the northwest. Sudan is a member of the United Nations, African Union, Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation among others, and its capital and largest city Khartoum serves as the political, cultural and economic center of the country.
Although there has been no census taken since South Sudan officially seceded from Sudan in 2011, many experts estimate the country’s population at roughly 30 million, with approximately 5.2 million of those living in or around the capital city of Khartoum. Sudanese Arabs, who are native to the region, represent the largest ethnic group in the country. They hail from a number of different tribes, most notably the Baggara and Darfurian tribes, with various languages, dialects and belief systems. In total there are over 597 tribes in Sudan who speak over 400 languages and dialects.
Over 130 languages are recognized in Sudan, however, only Arabic and English are granted official status, the latter added by an amendment to the Sudanese Constitution in 2005. Both are used commonly in government, international commerce, education and the legal system, but Arabic is spoken most commonly among the Sudanese people. The Arabic language has many common dialects that are spoken in various parts of the country, including Sudanese Arabic, which is spoken throughout the country; Najdi and Hejazi Arabic, spoken mainly in the mid-north and Mideast regions; and Chadic Arabic, which is widely spoken in the west by the Baggara tribes. Other non-Arabic languages include Nubian, spoken in the far north by the Nubian tribes, and Beja, spoken along the eastern edge of the nation near the Red Sea. Islam is the predominant religion in Sudan, particularly the Sunni branch of Islam, which is practiced by nearly 97 percent of the population. The remaining 3 percent of the Sudanese people adhere to various indigenous animist beliefs or Christianity.
Education in Sudan
Education in Sudan is overseen and regulated by the national government and is free and compulsory for eight years, beginning at age 6 and culminating at age 14. The education system in Sudan is divided between three stages: primary education, secondary education and higher education.
Primary school is the only compulsory level of education under the Sudanese system. It begins at age 6 and spans eight years, during which students are exposed to a broad curriculum, with instruction in subjects such as language and literature, mathematics, Islamic studies, science, history, geography, social studies, art and physical education. Instruction at the primary level is primarily in Arabic, although English is often studied as a second language. Due to years of civil war in Sudan, many schools have been destroyed and teacher training is minimal at best. Currently only 45 percent of eligible school-age children attend school on a regular basis.
Secondary education in Sudan spans three years, serving students between the ages of 14 and 17. This level of education also features a broad academic curriculum, aimed at preparing students for university enrollment. Last year, however, only 21 percent of eligible students attended the country’s secondary schools.
Higher education in Sudan is provided by the country’s 19 universities, most of which are located in the nation’s urban areas. All students who have earned a secondary school diploma are eligible to attend, however attendance at this level, much like the secondary level, is seriously hampered by the government’s requirement that most males must perform military service prior to completing their education.
Sudan has an adult literacy rate of 60 percent (69 percent for males and 46 percent for females). Like many Arabic countries, the rate of literacy in Sudan is higher for men due to the many culturally-based restrictions placed on females.