British Council Office, Khartoum, Sudan

British Council Office, Khartoum, Sudan

British Council Office, Khartoum, Sudan

What follows is a transcript of the specially recorded podcast you can hear in the embedded player below.

The Exchange – Episode 3 – Sudan and South Sudan by British Council. Uploaded with Scup

See Rosie’s photos from her time in Sudan and South Sudan

NARRATION
Welcome to our online radio programme, The Exchange – an exchange of views and ideas between you and the British Council.

My name’s Rosie Goldsmith and in The Exchange I’ll be telling you about some of the British Council’s people and projects, in the UK and round the world – and in exchange you tell us what you think.

Join me today on a journey from Khartoum, capital of Sudan, to Juba, capital of South Sudan, the world’s newest country, where I’ll be finding out about the British Council’s English For Development work.

In July 2011, after decades of civil war, Africa’s largest country, Sudan, split into two – with two different national anthems, currencies, governments and capitals. They also now have two different official languages: in Sudan it’s still Arabic, but in South Sudan it’s English.

The British Council has operated in Sudan for 65 years. So this division means its work now has to change dramatically as well.

I start my journey in Khartoum, capital of Sudan. I’m briefed by the British Council’s Khartoum Director, Richard Weyers.

Richard Weyers
“The British Council has been operating in Sudan since 1947; you need to remember that was during colonial times. Sudan gained its independence from the UK in 1956. So at one time we had offices all over Sudan, as far west Alfasha and Darfur, and of course Juba, an area of Sudan which enjoyed probably about eight years of peace since 1956, so it’s been very difficult dodging in and out of South Sudan during that period.”

NARRATION
This is a tense transition for both countries; supporting peace, development and nation-building are their priorities, and this is reflected in the British Council’s own priorities here. It’s faced with funding cuts from the British government back home, but the Council is still committed to growing its cultural and educational work across the world.

Here in Sudan, as Richard Weyers explains, this means development through education, with teaching English top of the list.

Richard Weyers
“In Khartoum we now have over 40 staff and that’s partly on the back of a much more rapid development of our English teaching work. I think there’s a lot more of that to come in South Sudan. There is a genuine significant opportunity for the British council to upscale its programmes there.

“And also with the British Council working in a newer model, more of a social enterprise then perhaps the libraries and the scholarships institution that they we’re known for traditionally.

“English is a very good example of that. Three years ago we were doing virtually nothing in English – we had no teaching operation, we were running no contracts for delivering English for our donor clients, and we had very little provision for teachers of English.

“But it became rapidly clear that what people want from us here is primarily in the area of English language; because it doesn’t take a genius to work out that English provides access to so much in the world and particularly if you are sitting in, let’s face it, a relatively repressive country, not yet part of the Arab spring.

“English is the language of the internet, the language of Facebook; it’s the language of communication with other African countries, frankly.”

NARRATION
Dr. Hala Salih recognizes that the old model of the British Council has changed. She is head of English at Khartoum University and also the first director of the new English Language Centre, which the British Council has helped set up, to the great advantage of both.

Dr. Hala Salih
“For us we understand that the British Council don’t have money to give us but they can facilitate a lot of things. By linking our name with the British Council I think we are building up a very good reputation.

“We have around 30 trainees. Now the British Council is bringing here in Sudan the trainers who are doing the training. And they are able to do a lot of activities on a very small budget. If you send these trainees outside it is going to be very expensive and we understand that things are becoming very expensive even for the British Council.

“So now, joining forces with the British Council, they do one part of the job that we cannot do which is to bring in trainers, pay for their tickets accommodation, we cannot do this. But what we can do is offer venue, refreshments and all the logistics of running things smoothly. This is what we can do, so I feel that, joining the British Council we benefit a lot from our partnership.”

NARRATION
And that’s exactly what’s going on here today next to Dr. Salih’s office: a workshop for teachers of English. In turn these teachers will then go home and train other teachers; it’s called ‘the cascade effect’.

Nile Street is the noisiest, longest street in Khartoum – all the key banks, government buildings, ministries, hotels and multinationals are here.

The sign to Sudan’s Education Ministry is spelt ‘Eduction’ – but if the British Council and the ebullient Minister of Education, Dr Suad Abdelazine Said, have their way, English mistakes like that will soon be a thing of the past.

After decades of Arabization and after the split with the South, Arabic is being re-asserted as the language of Sudan. However, the Minister tells me, English is also crucial to Sudan’s success – and the British Council is, for them, a valued partner in this.

Dr Suad Abdelazine Said
“What we are starting to do is one of a whole process of reforming the Education sector in Sudan within the whole process of the strategic plan for the whole country. And I know that language is the key for learning, so I start with language, and with languages I start with English.

“So we look forward to our traditional partners, the British people and the British Council, because of their previous experiences in this. That means whatever the product will be, it will be acceptable by all. I want to produce something to make communication between our two nations.”

NARRATION
There is a new sense of urgency about learning English here. Both countries recognize that English works in promoting global business, and the more developed Sudan already has some strong business links to build on.

A short walk down Nile Street and I’m at the stunning glass and marble Headquarters of the Petronas oil company, where the British Council’s Alex Butler is teaching English to its Marketing staff. This 10 week course is a result of a commercial contract between Petronas and the British Council. The course generates valuable income in exchange for specialist teaching: so, as they say, it’s a win-win situation.

Alex Butler
“I find that a lot of our corporate clients go to a lot of effort to make sure their students get a high quality education.

Rosie
Is this an English language class or a marketing class?

Alex Butler
“Certainly the emphasis is an English class but with their background marketing and with our ability to deliver business-specific courses tailored to their individual needs – we manage to incorporate both the skills together to not only improve their language but also their awareness of business-specific language that they would come across in their day to day jobs.”

NARRATION
I’m at the end of my day in Khartoum and I’ve come down to the banks of the River Nile – it’s a time to relax. Boats are moored alongside me; children are playing, men drinking tea and smoking, women chatting. It’s still dripping with heat and humidity.

The next time I see the Nile River I’ll be in Juba, capital of the new Republic of South Sudan – a two hour flight away.

[Music break]

The bright banners and bunting from July’s Independence celebrations can’t disguise the poverty and devastation in South Sudan. Two civil wars and decades of conflict mean there’s been little development or modernization. The Sudan People’s Liberation Army – the SPLA rebel army turned ruling party – is now in charge of rebuilding the country.

There are few roads, erratic electricity, mainly tribal villages, and guns and soldiers everywhere. Most of the men were bush guerrillas; most children did not go to school; illiteracy is about 85 per cent.

It’s like the Wild West.

It seems hardly surprising then that Tony Calderbank, the newly appointed director of the British Council in South Sudan, has his office in the same building as a night club. Space to rent is hard to get in Juba, so you grab what you can.

Tony Calderbank
“We are based in the De Havana bar and the De Havana bar, as you may deduce from its name, was established by some of the young SPLA fighters who were sent during the civil war to train in Cuba. But it’s quite a notorious night spot and there were shootings here, couple of years ago.”

Rosie
Three of you share quite a small office and you don’t have that much technology. How do you do your work? How do you operate?

Tony Calderbank
“The worst thing really is the connectivity. We share wireless connection with the night club next door. It cuts out all the time, it’s excruciatingly slow, we have no server.”

Rosie
How have you been received by the South Sudanese?

Tony Calderbank
“In many cases they remember the British Council from before. The British Council worked in Juba in the 70s. So, they have a very, it might possibly be a dated understanding of the British Council, but it’s a very fond understanding.

“I think at the same time, if you wanted to be really honest about it, you could say that the British have a lot to answer for in South Sudan. For many years the British were responsible for Sudan. And various aspects of British policy in the Sudan are seen to be divisive.”

Rosie
So the expectations they have of you are very, very high?

Tony Calderbank
“Yes, I think so. One of the things that our organization is really keen to do in South Sudan is to work on English language, and the government has decided that English language will be the language of the new nation.

“And yet at the same time, the vast majority of the population don’t speak English. There are many people who speak Arabic. There are dozens and dozens of indigenous languages.

“One of the challenges here is that the whole thing is so vast that it’s impossible to respond to the demand with native speakers. You’d need hundreds of thousands of native speakers.”

NARRATION
Tony Calderbank takes me first to Juba Day Secondary School. It was set up by the British Council in 1982. It hardly operated during the civil war but it’s being brought back to life, again with the help of the British Council. It has 724 pupils, often 70 to a class, and 31 teachers.

Emmanuel Lado, the Headmaster, proudly tells me, they may not have many resources but all lessons – except Arabic – are already in English. This is a tall order as English, in most cases, is only their second or third language.

Emmanuel Lado: “The standard of English is actually not all that good. The main problem is lack of books, and even teachers who teach English. With the new system, where they are phasing out Arabic, the teachers who are teaching come from the Arabic background. So their English is not all that good.”

Rosie
What do you want the British Council to do?

Emmanuel Lado
“The major project that actually we feel the British Council should help is in English language, and if they could help us with the library, stock it, I think that would be very grateful. The other thing is that, we were actually thinking of sharing with them in the nearest future is the problem of the fence. Because the school fence is no longer there.”

Rosie
So you want to fence off the compound from other people coming off the street.

Emmanuel Lado
“We have four latrines for the female students and four latrines for the male students but we have people around the area who are coming to use these things.”

Rosie
People in the villages and around are coming to use the toilets and the facilities here?

Emmanuel Lado
“Yeah the only way to restrict this is by having a fence.”

NARRATION
And that’s what it often boils down to here in South Sudan: practical help.

Against the odds, though, Juba Day Secondary School is seen as a model school. The British Council is donating some PCs and will soon open a school library. It’s also introduced Connecting Classrooms, where classrooms in developing countries are connected via the internet to British schools, to learn together through joint projects, to find out about the wider world, and of course to practice their English.

But for all this to succeed, this school needs a fence, for one, but also better connectivity, more toilets, text books, a living wage and housing for the teachers. How do they keep going?

Emmanuel Lado
“Most of the teachers, including myself, we are actually doing this as a service to our people.”

Rosie
So is this a patriotic duty?

Emmanuel Lado
“Yeah, it’s actually a patriotic duty because we feel that even during the war times the teachers actually continued to do their job and it’s good that the community actually recognizes the fact that teachers really contributed a lot.”

NARRATION
After talking to the headmaster, I listen to the school’s Military Science class, a leftover subject from civil war days, when pupils were also expected to support ‘the cause’. But understanding military strategy is hard in any language, let alone a foreign one like English.

Pupil one
“We learn about the enemy and how to tackle that.”

Rosie
What do you think about the fact that South Sudan, for its official language, it has the English language: is that good or bad?

Pupil one
“That is good. We South Sudanese like English to be main language because we don’t like Arabic.”

Rosie
You speak English?

Pupil two
“Yes.”

Rosie
Which language does your family speak at home?

Pupil two
“English and Arabic”

Rosie
Do you have a tribal language as well?

Pupil two
“Yes, it is Bari.”

Rosie
How easy or difficult is the English language for you?

Pupil two
“It is a bit fifty, fifty.”

NARRATION
It’ll be a long time before subjects like Military Science are dropped from South Sudan’s curriculum. They still share a pre-war curriculum with the north too.

Reminders of war are everywhere in Juba.

My next visit is to the University. It’s a terrible sight. It functioned as a barracks during the civil war, and the students and staff were relocated north to Khartoum. Now they’re coming back with little more than a strong dose of patriotism to keep them going.

Michael Baffoka is head of the English Department. He sits in a shabby office with a collapsing filing cabinet. No fan, no PC, no books.

Michael Baffoka
“The relocation of the university from Khartoum back to Juba is a positive thing, and I think the university is going to play a major role towards the development of the country. There is no development without education.

“So after achieving independence what we fought for, what our people died for, it is a challenge to us and now we have work to do in order to show the world, to show our brothers in the North, what we are capable of doing, of ruling ourselves of planning ourselves and doing whatever we think are good for ourselves.”

Rosie
Tell me about the collaboration with the British Council.

Michael Baffoka
“There are number of areas that the British Council can provide help. My idea is to establish a full language centre here because, to be frank, there is great need for English here as now we have chosen English language as the medium of instruction. There is need to train people to function in English. “

Rosie
Because Arabic has been the language so far?

Michael Baffoka
“Yes, so you need a strong centre that can do that, well equipped, to run that.”

NARRATION
But that goal of one happy nation fluent in English is a long way off, as I discover when I try chatting to students on the campus.

Student one
“The people is not talk English very well in this university. Speak Arabic.”

Rosie
It’s going to be a lot of work for you – big problem?

Student one
“Is big problem.”

Rosie
And what about your friend here?

Student two
I don’t know English, never.

Rosie
Never?

Student two
“Never.”

Rosie
What about you?

Student three
“Why do you force us to talk in English?”

Rosie
I’m not forcing you to speak English…

Student three
“Then why?”

Rosie
Because I can’t speak Arabic. I’m very sorry.

NARRATION
I beat a hasty retreat. These students are frustrated, even angry, being forced, as they see it, to speak English. So making English the national language is not easy.

That’s also the message I get when I meet another British Council partner, Edward Kokole, who is Director of Teacher Training at South Sudan’s Ministry of Education.

The monsoon rain and running sewage outside his building set a bleak mood for our interview; in spite of its commitment to education, this new government is struggling to deliver.

Edward Kokole
“The problems are huge and many. We have problems of capacity; not all the staff that we have employed in the ministry have the capacity really to know their jobs. Most of them were soldiers so since peace has come they also need to get their peace dividends, so the employment at that time was just done at random.”

Rosie
You have a vision for how you want to conduct the training, the education, tell me about your dream programme for education; your priorities.

Edward Kokole
“Well, the priority of the whole sector is of course the training of teachers. Because a teacher even without a classroom, if he’s well trained provide he can quality training to the children even under trees.”

Rosie
Teaching classes under the shade of a tree?

Edward Kokole
“Exactly. But the most important person in that learning is the teacher, if that person is qualified. At the moment 87% of our teachers are unqualified.”

Rosie
87%?

Edward Kokole
“Yes. Most of them are also teachers of Arabic background of whom now they cannot instruct our curriculum in the language of instruction which is English. So the scenario is very bad, we are working round the clock to make sure that we train as many teachers as possible in the next five years.”

Rosie
How is the British Council helping?

Edward Kokole
“We had been persuading them to come and support the intensive English course programme. Because we have over 18,000 teachers who came from the north who are oriented in Arabic and now they cannot teach in English.”

Rosie
You need to train 18,000 people who came down from the north to teach in English?

Edward Kokole
“Exactly.”

NARRATION
The demands on the British Council are immense, but there have been major breakthroughs too, thanks to a strategic shift by the Council in Africa to make English for Development one of its main priorities and to enter into commercial contracts with clients.

Brigadier General Awur Malual joined the rebel movement in 1983 when he was 15. Today he helps run the SPLA Training Branch. The pressure is on to make peace work in South Sudan and the British Council is helping in an unexpected way – by providing English courses for the soldiers.

Brig. Gen. Awur Malual
“You know it is an uphill task. First of all we will do through training that is why we are here, we will train and then we will demobilize some of the ex-combatants, to be incorporated into civil life. Now peace has come and we want to maintain that peace.”

Rosie
How do you train a rebel soldier who in his heart and mind and practically has been fighting for 20 years to become a civilian soldier?

Brig. Gen. Awur Malual
“The fighting was not an objective but a last resort. So most of us were not soldiers before, we were either civilians, school children or government official. So it is an uphill task, as I put it before, it’s difficult but we are on that track to do it.”

Rosie
How do you personally feel about the English language?

Brig. Gen. Awur Malual
“English is one of the good things that the British brought, but also Britain brought some bad things. Britain used to treat South Sudan as a separate entity. Because the war that we are now waging was caused by Britain.”

Rosie
So, why is the English Language important to the SPLA?

Brig. Gen. Awur Malual
“English is the language of communication in South Sudan. That is why we want everybody to train in English. And also English is spoken in neighbouring countries like Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, so it will be a medium of communication within the country and also as you cross the border you will be speaking English. So what we want in South Sudan is that make English as official language of South Sudan.”

Rosie
So it is about identity?

Brig. Gen. Awur Malual
“Yes of course.”

NARRATION
Post-conflict development has become an important role for the British Council in Sudan and South Sudan. It works like this: the British Ministry of Defence or the Department for International Development in the UK contract the British Council to organize English courses for the Sudanese armed forces or the police or the Judiciary. But that doesn’t mean the British Council is getting involved with politics.

Tony Calderbank has accompanied me here to the SPLA Headquarters in Juba.

Tony Calderbank
“The English language training is intended to create a presence in the SPLA of good English speakers and this will facilitate co-operation with other countries’ armed forces. So it’s part of the strategy to integrate the SPLA, to transform the SPLA from a rebel guerrilla movement into a modern standing army or a modern national army. And also the English language will work as a way to overcome the tribal differences in the SPLA as a language of communication.”

Rosie
But the British tax payer is paying for the British Council to manage these classes for the military in South Sudan?

Tony Calderbank
“That’s right. I think it’s important that we spend part of our money on those kinds of things. Helping people to speak English because that might create a more harmonious world by allowing them to communicate with one another.

“I wouldn’t be so idealized as to think that knowledge of English is necessarily going to bring peace and harmony. But to be engaged with people, to be talking to people and to be doing things together with people, is better than killing them or shooting them or entering into conflict with them.”

NARRATION
The idea is practical, strategic and philanthropic. Specialist English-training, provided by British Council teachers, helps the soldiers to learn the language of their new nation and to pursue other careers. There are a quarter of a million former soldiers in South Sudan: many are being demobbed, others are being retrained as a professional force.

Brig. Gen. Awur Malual takes me to meet the students, most of them no longer young. It’s an extraordinary sight: big men – mostly men – in battle fatigues hunched over tiny desks writing in large letters on poster-size paper, or standing up and addressing the whole class in English. Men like Martin, John and Daniel.

Martin
“At least now I’ve improved my English, I’ve known the different tenses and vocabulary, so I’m really proud.”

Rosie
You are all soldiers. Do you want to stay in the army?

Martin
“If I have opportunities of leaving the army, then why not? I want to be a journalist, that is my future job.”

John
“I joined the SPLA in 1988. 23 years in army.”

Rosie
You’ve seen some difficult things?

John
“Yes, but today we are free. Now we are trying to learn, we are starting from zero.”

Rosie
Is it difficult in your heads to make this change?

John
“Of course that stress is there, but as soon as education is concerned these things will go automatically.”

Rosie
Education helps you get over that stress?

John
“Sure, education helps. Nowadays we need development, and development will not come without being in school.”

Daniel
“I’m 53 years old. I have been in the army since 1983.”

Rosie
How do you feel after all these years of fighting, of being in the bush, how is it now to sit in a classroom?

Daniel
“I am now very proud that I have achieved my objective. I am very happy indeed.”

Rosie
What is your objective?

Daniel
“To achieve the independence of my people. This is what I am fighting for. Now I have got it, I have to learn to how write something about what I have been doing before, for the coming generations.

Rosie
You are going to write a history of South Sudan and that’s how you are going to use your English?

Daniel
“Yes. That’s why I want to learn.”

NARRATION
I’ve seen some ambitious and exciting projects on my journey from Khartoum to Juba. What I’ve learned is that education and development are crucial to peace and progress. The British Council’s long-term commitment to teaching English is a major contribution to that process.

That’s it from this edition of The Exchange.

Do email, blog, tweet or Facebook us about what you’ve heard. What are your views on Sudan? Or on the idea of English For Development? Have you any experiences of your own to share?

If you’d like to find out more about the British Council’s Learning English work have a look online. You can also read my blog and see photos of my trip to Khartoum and Juba.

This is the Exchange with me Rosie Goldsmith, brought to you by the British Council.

British Council Focus on Sudan and South Sudan

The Exchange – Episode 3 – Sudan and South Sudan by British Council. Uploaded with Scup

The Exchange: blogs from Sudan and South Sudan
Rosie Goldsmith is a journalist and presenter of the British Council’s international affairs podcast, The Exchange. Rosie travelled through the two new nations of North and South Sudan to report for the British Council on its English Language projects in both countries and show how learning English is helping development.
The Exchange – The long road to Khartoum
The Exchange – On the road in South Sudan, Day 1
The Exchange – On the road in South Sudan, Day 2
The Exchange – On the road in South Sudan, Day 3
The Exchange – On the road in South Sudan, Day 4

See Rosie’s photos from her time in Sudan and South Sudan

South Sudan: Out of Bounds
Tony Calderbank, British Council Country Director in the newly minted Republic of South Sudan, finds that having an office in the corner or a nightclub makes life a lot more interesting.

Sudan: Making music where the 2 Niles meet
Tilal Salih, a British Council Project Delivery Manager working in Khartoum, Sudan, blogs about a remarkable meeting of musical minds in a reborn festival by the banks of the Nile.

Tim Cumming blogs for The Huffington Post from the 10th Khartoum International Music Festival

Audioblog: Active Citizens in Sudan by British Council

Find out more about the British Council’s work in Southern Sudan.