One of the golden rules of being a freelancer is never to complain about lack of work. I have been moaning about being stuck in Khartoum for the past week, unable to get to where I want to be. And then Sudanese police arrest a British teacher here for naming a teddy bear Mohamed. All hell has broken loose.
I’m not going to discuss the sad tale of Gillian Gibbons. She’s all over the web now.
But it’s already afforded me a fascinating insight into Khartoum’s schools. Unity High School where Miss Gibbons was teaching was founded in 1902 along Christian lines in the days of Brit rule. Walking into its shady courtyard was not unlike walking into a Cambridge college or English boarding school – except with Arab arches. This is the school favoured by the Sudanese elite, and a smattering of aid and oil workers.
United Nations workers tend to prefer KICS – Khartoum International Community School. It gets rave reviews from parents but apparently costs more than Gordonstoun so only an option if Uncle Ban is providing a good education allowance. Apparently it was shipped over brick by brick from the UK so that Sudan’s very own answer to Richard Branson – Osama Daoud Abdellatif, chairman of the DAL Group – could give his kids the very best education.
Today’s story suggests that there are tensions between a Muslim population governed by Sharia law and westerners educating their children at American or British schools. I suspect they actually rub along pretty well. Many well-to-do Sudanese want their kids to go to international schools. The fear is that there may be a minority of hardliners who need little encouragement to bring their people on to the streets.