Moving to Sudan is a challenge even for the most seasoned ex-pats. The harsh climate, shaky political situation and isolation can all conspire to make life in Khartoum very difficult. However, finding a positive school environment to keep your children happy all day is something that can make your experience in Sudan a good one.
So, do not feel overwhelmed; hundreds of expat families have paved the way ahead of you and have come out of Khartoum with an appreciation of the land and the people—and a new appreciation of central air conditioning as well!
At present, as in many other countries (for example one could cut and paste the write up from Cairo, Egypt and just change the name of the city) there are dozens of billboards advertising terrific sounding “English” schools. But with a little more exploration, the majority of these turn out to be schools for local Sudanese who want to learn English. The teachers are not necessarily native English speakers and the curriculum is mainly in Arabic with a few English classes on the side.
So, if you are a parent moving to Sudan with your school-aged children, have a few conversations with other parents - preferably before you arrive in the area - and you will soon find out that you have a few good choices.
If your main consideration is whether the curriculum is American (KAS) or IB (KICS), or British (Unity) or whether you are looking for a well-recommended preschool for the younger children (Purple Crayon), or whether you want a more Sudanese experience (Nile Valley or Unity) then read on.
First, take into consideration the transportation issues, as Khartoum is a sprawling city with heavy traffic and you will have to arrange for your children to get to and from school. Public transportation is not reliable, and only one school, KICS, offers a school bus service.
Khartoum American School (KAS): Overall a wonderful environment with strong, enthusiastic staff who are truly enthusiastic about the school, the students and their jobs. The atmosphere is welcoming, relaxed and the administration is justifiably proud of their recent multiple success in being re-accredited by two international education organizations. The curriculum is American, so graduates generally head off to universities in the USA and Canada, with a smattering of grads heading to France, Switzerland and Germany.
With good leadership as of this writing, and with a strong parent association and board, the school is a fine choice for any ex-pats who find themselves dropped into the deserts of Sudan. Fittingly, the campus is a green oasis – a place to escape the sandy and dusty streets of the city.
Khartoum International Community School (KICS): A strong new kid on the block, KICS has a more impressive campus with more space, posh facilities and strong teaching staff. This school is a terrific one to choose if you are looking for the IB curriculum, and have the deeper pockets necessary for the (extremely) high tuition. The school boasts state-of-the-art libraries and IT services, a lovely college-type campus and a diverse student body. Some expats feel that the school may be catering to the elite of Sudan, but this is a complaint heard from all top international schools that come with the pricey entrance fees.
Unity High School: As the oldest established English language school in Khartoum, Unity has a fascinating history. The school follows the British curriculum and offers the GCSE exams. Unfortunately, it is currently overcrowded with more than 700 students in small downtown classrooms, and the financial difficulties are apparent on the campus. That said, the students are proud of their school, achieve good results and have a strong record of acceptance to universities in the UK. While the school does cater to ex-pat students (mainly from Arabic speaking countries as well as Philippines, Malaysia, and China), it seems that it is more geared to the Sudanese business elite. At the time of our visit, there were no British or American students enrolled.
Nile Valley Academy: The NVA is a small school owned and operated by an American company, and established to educate local Sudanese children. The school offers daily Arabic lessons. If you are interested in enrolling your children in a school that easily meshes native English teachers with an American curriculum and incorporates a more Sudanese experience, then this might be the place for you.
There is the small (40 or so students) Ecole Francais, which does follow the French curriculum but is not considered by most Anglophone expats in Khartoum.
Nurseries and preschools seem to be a growth industry in Khartoum and there were at least three places that expat mums and dads were happy with. The most popular one is the Purple Crayon which offers a bright, welcoming environment. Its main advantages are that it has a staff with native English speaking teachers, and its small size. The school is set to keep growing, and the fact that there is a waiting list for the pre-kindergarten is a good indication of its popularity.