Though Nile Basin countries share the same river, there isn’t much sharing in the field of education.
Between language barriers, political tensions and different curricula, students find it hard to continue their studies within the region. Students end up losing time, face difficulties in registering, or struggle with a foreign language.
Divisions dating back to colonialism
“Education, according to the colonial heritage, created a language barrier,” said Professor Omer M. Ali, International Relations Expert at the University of Khartoum. “So we find most likely in Congo, Rwanda and Burundi, a French education. In Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, a British education.
These languages are official in these countries even for media and formal treatments. Ethiopia, Eritrea and South Sudan are also English, and it is Arabic in Egypt and Sudan.” Professor Ali notes that due to these challenges, it is sometimes easier for university students to continue studying abroad than within the Nile Basin region.
There is also the issue of movement of populations from one country to another. The visa is very difficult to obtain and it is expensive. “If it’s not easy with French-speaking countries, we at least need to (make it easier) with English speaking ones. We have not made any effort in this regard. The leaders in these countries need to combat illiteracy and spread education.”
“I think relations between Nile Basin countries in the education field are very weak,” said Dr Asmaa M. Jumaa, a social worker in El Neelain University.
“The political relations have a big impact on the collaborative relations – Sudan and Egypt are an example,” she said, adding that decades ago, the effect of politics wasn’t as intense as it is currently.
Cairo University in Khartoum (now El-Neelain) once played an important role in a Sudanese-Egyptian educational collaboration, yet after the nationalisation of the university, things have not been the same.
There are still Sudanese students in Egypt despite the difficult regulations influenced by a political agenda and the increased number of educational options in Sudan, according to Prof. Ali.
My experience studying side by side with girls from different African countries was very useful.”
In the past, both Egypt and Britain colonised Sudan and a number of students went to each of the countries; now there are differences in the systems, in addition to the political issues such as Halaib borders and Nile waters; which caused complex registration.
Due to security and political restrictions, students prefer to go to other English-speaking African, European and American countries for graduate studies.”
“We just received a proposal from China, which is very different and far away, yet we are willing to make a mutual exchange program in the universities,” said Professor Ali. “Why can’t we do that within our region?” he wondered. Professor Ali stressed the importance of countries reaching out to their neighbours to facilitate movement.
When studying across a border does work
Annsimon Emil, an Egyptian, second-year student at Sudan’s Afhad University’s School of Management said: “I think there aren’t many relations between Nile Basin countries in the education field. Education in Egypt is totally different from education in Sudan, and I think it’s better in Sudan.”
“My experience studying side by side with girls from different African countries was very useful,” said Emil, “as it teaches me how to deal with various types of people.
This experience lets you connect with people and make new friends. I am planning to work in Sudan after graduation.”
Allowing educators to make changes
“All these countries are trying to adapt to a new system, a more successful one, but from my understanding and my nine years teaching experience, every time they try to move from a colonial system to a new one, they find it challenging,” said Mr. Y, a Ugandan teacher who has taught at all school levels in Sudan.
“We need to put this issue in the hands of professionals,” he said. “Right now these decisions are being made by politicians, and they are being pushed by foreign powers.”