Tears of the Desert – Formal and Informal Education System

Part 1: Child of the Desert

Chapter 1: The Naming

No discussion of education

Chapter 2: Grandma’s Trip to the Lost Valley

P16 – Grandma Sumah’s children only had basic education because she couldn’t afford the school fees

Chapter 3: Moon-Bone Madness

No discussion of education

Chapter 4: Mo, Omer, and Me

No discussion of education

Chapter 5: The Cutting Time

P54 – at age 8 Halima is old enough to be sent away to school; her only education previously was to go to the Imam every Friday morning to memorize verses from the Koran; Halima will now go to the primary school in Hashma

P60 – Halima’s family is the only one in the village that can afford school fees; the other children in the village either won’t go to school or will go to school in a nearby village since there is no school in their village; the school in the nearby village has no classrooms or uniforms and is held under a tree; Halima will stay in Hashma with her father’s brother during terms and go home for the holidays; her father says during terms she must devote herself to her studies

P61 – Grandma says no one went to away to school in her day; Halima’s father gives her a bag of school supplies: a beige-and-white uniform which includes a fustan (a long, loose dress, with 2 ribbons to tie at the waist), a white Muslim headscarf, and black leather shoes, and a red plastic rucksack full of pens, pencils, and notebooks; Halima’s father promises to send Mo and Omer to school when they are older; one term is 3 months

P64 – the school consists of a dusty playing field and a dozen low, oblong buildings with fine walls and iron roofs (these are the classrooms), inside the classrooms have earth floors, a blackboard at one end, rows of wooden desks which sit three students each; the rooms have no glass in the windows and no doors in the doorways; there is also a teacher’s staffroom and headmistress’s office (these buildings have wooden doors and glass windows; teachers in Sudan are held in great respect because they are educated; Halima has a form tutor named Miss Shadia


Part 2: School of the Desert

Chapter 6: School Days

P69 – school has a mixture of Arabic and black African teachers and students; Miss Shadia is also Halima’s math teacher; students are arranged in the classroom according to height; lessons are all in Arabic

P70 – students each lunch outside sitting on the grass; students are only allowed to speak Arabic (Halima is hit over the head and yelled at for speaking Zaghawa); Halima’s lessons first term are in science, math, Islamic studies, and Arabic

P71 – Miss Jelibah, the Arabic teacher, scolds the Arab girls for making fun of the black girls’ Arabic; the school week goes from Saturday to Thursday; Halima’s day ends at 1 pm; her cousins (who are older) have to stay later in the afternoon; at 8 am the assembly bell rings and there is an assembly on the playing field; students who are late to assembly must clean the toilets; there is a break at 11 am

P72 – for the assembly students stand in rows (youngest in front, oldest in back); “We had to hold out our hands as the headmistress inspected our nails, our clothes, our faces, and our hair.  If you had a speck of dirt on you from walking to school, then she’d give you a crack with her stick.  And we had to keep totally silent.  Everyone had been beaten and no one wanted to be next.” If a student forgot socks or her nails were too long she was taken to the headmistress’s office to be beaten with a hose; during break the girls eat and play games; fighting is banned at the school

P74 – students are brought to school by their parents

P75 – students are paired up to do different cleaning tasks such as picking up trash on the playing field, sweeping classrooms, cleaning toilets; Halima is yelled at when her partner doesn’t show up to sweep the classroom and Halima doesn’t clean the entire side

P79 – students take end of term tests; results are posted for everyone to see; the Arab girls are mad at Halima because she is black and has higher scores than they do

Chapter 7: Fight School

P90 – Sairah and Halima fight after school in the yard

P92 – Sairah’s mother, a teacher at the school, reports Halima to the headmistress for fighting

Chapter 8: Resistance for Grandma

P94 – Miss Shadia takes Halima to the headmistress’s office

P95 – Halima is expelled from school for fighting

P96 – Halima’s uncle Ahmed goes in to speak to the headmistress in place of Halima’s father

P99 – Miss Aisha teaches English to older students

Chapter 9: The White Eyelash Attack

P107 – in her second year of school Halima started learning English and English culture/customs; Halima is top of her year at the end of the second year

P108 – Halima’s younger brother is doing poorly in school

P112 – at 11 Halima is ready to move on to secondary school but first she has to pass exams; all students in the country have to take the exams and results are compared across the country

P113 – Halima is in the top 5 students in Darfur; she is congratulated by her whole school; results are announced in front of the whole school and Halima is given some prize money and a gold embossed Koran; Halima’s father tells her he wants her to go to a university to become a doctor

Chapter 10: Cousins in Love

P124 – Halima finds it difficult to concentrate on her studies because of the political fights

Chapter 11: Dream to Be

P128 – Halima must get the highest possible marks to get into university to become a doctor; at the end of secondary school, when she is 18, Halima has to take a high school leaving certificate exam over all subjects studied; Halima needs at least a 70% to get into a university; the top 30 students in the country are announced on TV

P129 – a school scores a certain number of points depending on how many students get into a university, the more points a school gets, the higher the headmaster’s pay bonus is; results are announced in front of the school and scores are posted; Mona’s education is over because she is getting married; Halima is 1 of 2 students from her school who passed

P130 – Halima fills out applications for universities; her 1st program choice is medicine, 2nd is law, and 3rd is economics

P132 – Halima is accepted into the medicine program at the University of Khartoum

P133 – Halima must study for 6 years to become a doctor; the term starts in May


Part 3: Desert of Fire

Chapter 12: Med School

P139 – upon arrival at the university on induction day, Halima is interviewed by the head of faculty, Dr. Omer; Halima lives in a boarding house while at the university

P141 – the university is only 6 years old; the lecture hall can hold more than 700 students; all 1st year students have their lectures there; the hall contains rows of desks facing a lecture platform and microphones for students; the 1st year is spent in foundation courses (every subject) and those who pass move on to their specialized degree; Halima quickly realizes how different the Arab city girls are from her through different experiences in the boarding house and in classes

P145 – people in Halima’s village think she will never get married because she is overeducated

P146 – studying anatomy at school makes Halima realize the problems of female circumcision

P147 – “My first months at university were a challenge, a revelation, and a joy to me.  I was among my academic peers, and I was tested and stimulated by being so.”

P148 – university is closed due to nephirh (state of national emergency)

Chapter 13: University of Jihad

P154 – when the university is reopened many boys and girls do not return because they joined the jihad (holy war)

P155 – a khawaja (white person) from Germany teaches chemistry

P156 – to move past the first year, students must take exams; those who joined the jihad were given top marks even though they were gone for most of the term and never took the exams

P157 – the medical degree is broken down into 4 subjects: general medicine, surgery, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology; Halima wants to specialize in obstetrics and gynecology because she has seen many women in her village die in child birth and she wants to help them

P158 – during her 2nd year Halima has to study all 4 subjects; at the end of the year she must take an exam in each; to study obstetrics and gynecology she needs an excellent in that area and a pass in the other three; students have to dissect human bodies and all the cadavers are black Africans

Chapter 14: Rumors of War

P160 – in other shutdowns of the university the medical department is mostly left alone; Halima studies the traditional medicines used by her tribe and realizes some have no medicinal value, others are harmful, and others are actually helpful

P161 – fighting in Darfur causes the government to lock down the school

P164 – at the end of her exams Halima must pass a viva (oral exam), an interview with her tutor and external examiner; she is asked a few questions then her tutor is asked about her attendance, he lies and says she rarely attends lectures; when Halima tries to defend herself she is called a liar

P165 – “With Darfuris rebelling across the country, how could they let me, a Darfuri, come in at or near the top of my year?  I had been marked down as a shirker and a liar in my viva – that’s how they had got me.  In due course I did graduate but it was with a middling mark.”  Halima doesn’t attend her graduation

Chapter 15: Medicine Woman

No discussion of education

Chapter 16: Accident and Emergency

No discussion of education

Chapter 17: Mission to Mazkhabad

No discussion of education

Chapter 18: Rebel Doctor

No discussion of education

Chapter 19: Black Dogs and Slaves

No discussion of education

Chapter 20: They Come for Me

No discussion of education

Chapter 21: A Long-Distance Wedding

No discussion of education

Chapter 22: The Devil Horsemen

No discussion of education

Chapter 23: A Time of Fear

No discussion of education


Part 4: Desert of No Return

Chapter 24: Escape from Darfur

No discussion of education

Chapter 25: The Hostel of Despair

No discussion of education

Chapter 26: In London, In Love

No discussion of education

Chapter 27: Breaking the Silence

No discussion of education

Chapter 28: Will to Live

No discussion of education

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