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Originally produced for UNICEF

El Radia, the nomad teacher

I did not grow up in a nomadic family. I lived close to Um Rawaba and went to the Basic, Intermediate and Secondary School there. Afterwards I took some short courses in teacher training in El Obeid. I had been teaching in the Basic School for a few years when my cousin called me to a place called Rahaat to celebrate the opening of one of the first nomad schools in this province. My cousin was the teacher. It was the first time I had ever seen such a school. I heard Mohamed Idris, the Director of Nomad Education, saying that there was a shortage of women teachers in the nomad schools because not many women will put up with the lifestyle.

I was not married and had a strong inner feeling that it would be very good for me to work with these far off communities. I went to see Mohamed Idris and told him that I was willing to be a teacher in a nomad school. Some months later I received a message that a suitable community had come forward. I went to the education office in Um Rawaba to meet people from the community. I was very happy. I didn’t feel at all afraid. I really felt as if I was going to the place where I belonged.

As agreed, they had already built a shelter for the school and a small house for me, with walls of woven grass called el mareih and wooden posts from the syaal tree and a thatched roof. The floor was of bare sand and I had a simple bed and mattress. According to our agreement the community provided all of my food. They gave me five thousand dinar per month in addition to my regular salary as well as one cow and ten goats.

The children who came to school on that first day were aged from 6 to 11 years old. They very quiet and seemed happy although some were afraid. None of them had been to school before. We had to start from the very beginning of the curriculum, but they learned quickly – especially the girls. Their marks are excellent and show that the children here are learning faster than children in the Basic School. Every month I hold a meeting with each parent to talk about how their child is doing in school.

I had been with the community for several months when they told me we had to migrate to a place with more water and better grazing for the animals. They helped me pack up my home. Everything was put on a camel, and then I climbed onto the camel as well. It was the first time I had ever done such a thing but I was so excited. All the children were laughing and shouting, “Look at Teacher! The Teacher is riding a camel! Take care Teacher! Don’t fall off!” Everyone was happy to be on the move. We travelled for several hours and then we stopped and put up our homes.

El Radia grew up in the town and had no experience of the nomadic lifestyle when she joined the Habanya tribe as a nomad school teacher, but she embraced the life and was about to marry into the tribe permanently. Below left, El Radia, centre, in her classroom, right, her home.