Sudan conflict: Growing concern about impact on society, HE

Dozens of deaths and a growing number of injuries have been reported in Sudan, which is also affecting the academic community as part of the country’s civil society.

As reported by news organisations, at least 185 people have been killed and 1,800 injured, according to Volker Perthes, a United Nations special representative for Sudan. This comes after a deteriorating security situation in Sudan following the eruption of fighting between Sudan's national army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces earlier this week.

The safety of international students in Sudan, including Egyptian, Nigerian and Somali students, is also at risk.

Many students, including foreign students, are without electricity and with no means of communication, prompting parents of Egyptian students in Sudan to call for the return of their children to Egypt and integration into Egyptian universities, similar to what happened to foreign students after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Egyptian students in Sudan have conveyed their experiences on social media platforms: “There is no sleeping, no eating, no drinking, we are locked in the dormitory.... Leaving the residence exposes us to death by gunfire, and staying inside threatens us with starvation.”

Details of the current situation of Egyptian students in Sudan have been posted on the Facebook group ‘Egyptian students union in Sudan’.

In solidary with Egyptian students’ calls for protecting and evacuating them as a result of the deteriorating security situation in Sudan, several hashtags were launched including #Save_Egyptian_Students in Sudan.

There are 3,000 Egyptian students in Sudan, most of them in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Emigration and Expatriate Affairs (MEEF).

Many Arab students go to Sudan because of relatively low costs of tertiary education and lower admissions standards compared to those in their home countries, according to a 2019 article “Arab Students at Sudanese Universities Face an Uncertain Future”. However, this may also be making it difficult for many of them to transition back to universities at home.

Reaction to Egyptian students’ calls

As a result of the escalation of the military clashes in Sudan MEEF held a virtual meeting with 100 Egyptian students in Sudan to monitor their well-being. The meeting took place on 17 April.

MEEF issued a statement: “We are in constant contact with the sector for Sudanese affairs at the ministry of foreign affairs, the Egyptian embassy and consulate in Khartoum and the Egyptian community to help in the event of a shortage of food or medicine and to provide any form of support to those in need of these materials, especially students who are in dangerous areas, and those who have run out of food.

“An ongoing assessment is being made of the conditions of the Egyptian community in Sudan, and all alternatives are on the table, including an urgent evacuation plan if necessary in accordance with the situation and developments on the ground, and after the opening of airports and land borders that are currently closed.

"We call upon Egyptian students in Sudan to fill out an electronic form to register to prepare plans that guarantee their security and safety.

The ministry of higher education and scientific research said it would send emails to Egyptian students studying in Sudanese universities, to ensure their safety.

Other African students

The President of the National Association of Nigerian Students in Europe (NANSE), Bashiru Saidu Muhammad has called on the government of Nigeria to, not only protect Nigerian students in Sudan, but also evacuate them amid the ongoing military conflict which posed a significant threat to their well-being and academic progress.

Somali students also expressed fear for their safety, appealing to the Somali government to assist them in returning Somalia

Depending on conditions on the ground, the Somali government is planning the evacuation of citizens in Sudan who are estimated at up to 3,000 Somalis, many of them students.

The government of the Gambia indicated that all the 58 recorded Gambian students in Sudan are currently safe and have been advised to remain indoors as well as follow safety guidelines issued by the authorities in the Sudan. They have also been asked to remain in touch with the country’s foreign ministry and its missions abroad.

Other non-African student nationalities, including Chinese, Indian and Malaysian students have expressed fears about the security challenges.