Since the school was set up in 2004, with an initial student body of just sixty five, demand in the area has steadily increased and after visiting the school in March 2015, it is easy to see why. A third floor is needed to be added to the boys school due to increased demand.
The site consists of primary and secondary schools for both boys and girls and now serves 850 pupils, 700 of whom are orphans. The buildings are spacious and clean, the classrooms light and airy and inspirational messages adorn the walls. Each morning begins with playtime, followed by an assembly, where the children recite poetry and Qur'an, give performances and make announcements. All of the orphans in the school are part of the Muslim Hands orphan sponsorship scheme and during each assembly the pupils make dua for their donors.
The lessons are lively and energetic. The pupils are excited, straining their hands towards the air and clicking their fingers in the hope of being chosen to answer the teacher's question. Most of the children here are from disadvantaged backgrounds and with schools in Khartoum charging an average of £30 per month for each student, this is their only opportunity of accessing education.
The school is proof that given the opportunity, children from all backgrounds can achieve great success. The exam pass rate has been 100% for four consecutive years and many of the children who have passed through these gates have gone on to higher education. Academic achievements are rewarded, with prizes being given to students that are doing well.
However, the academic aspect, important as it is, is only one part of the educational experience that the school offers its children. As with all of our schools across the globe, welfare is a priority. As well as all the core subjects like Maths, English, Science, History and Islamic Studies, the school's curriculum includes P.E and there is a volleyball court in the playground so the children can keep fit and active.
Each day at 11.30am, (the traditional time for a Sudanese breakfast), the children eat a nutritious meal of fuul; made up of fresh fava beans, tomatoes and greens, with freshly baked bread and there is an onsite doctor, that as well as conducting basic check-ups, is available to deal with any health issues the children may have.
Many of the students will have lost one or both parents and their families may be struggling to make ends meet. These experiences are a lot for even an adult to deal with, so it is only natural that the students may experience feelings of depression, anxiety and insecurity. This is why the staff at the School of Excellence receive specialist training, so that they can nurture the emotional, as well as the physical wellbeing of the students and support them through the times they are feeling low.
The school also maintains a close relationship with the pupils' mothers, many of whom are widows, with the orphan care workers paying regular visits to family homes and monthly parent's meetings being held. As well as this, the school holds an annual awards ceremony for students and their mothers, with the last event being attended by 3,000 people, including the Sudanese first lady.
Muslim Hands Sudan Country Manager, Dr. Ismail Abdalla, remains actively involved with the school. As he shows the Muslim Hands team around the facilities, his love for the children and his dedication to the project is unmistakable. When asked why the school means so much to him, Dr. Ismail reminds us of the words of the Prophet (saw), ‘The best house among the Muslims is the one in which an orphan is treated well. The worst house among the Muslims is the one in which an orphan is mistreated' (Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 137).
By Tijen Horoz, Senior Communications Editor