In Sudan, a learning practice called Khalwas offers kids the opportunity to eradicate illiteracy suddenly became a torture zone for many helpless kids. The traditional Quranic school brought thousands of kids to acquire religious teaching and the Quran. The purpose of the practice has played a vital role in educating and helping the kids find direction in life.
At these Khalwas, teachers teach kids how to read and write Arabic, memorize the Quran, and study Islamic jurisprudence ( Figh). The kids have to spend between two to four years to become good as religious scholars and learn how to perform prayers. Lessons begin around dawn and end the early night. The kids write down a number of Quranic verses on a wood tablet. This practice helps them to memorize them, and help them narrate the reading in front of their Chief Imam.
The political trauma in the country put a huge strain on these religious schools that a few of the Khalwas could take in more than 250 kids from refugee camps. Most families send their kids to normal or regular schools after their time at the Khalwas. The war is over and the thousands of kids have left for regular school, but the school still maintains its respect in society.
These parents want their kids’ faith to be deepened and strengthened. That was the beautiful story of these kids and school until BBC carried out a careful investigation on some of these places. The undercover work revealed that some of the kids were chained on their legs.
Allegations of abuse were exposed inside some of these khalwas, and kids were sexually abused, beaten, and kept in the chain. We did miss an important part of this school at the beginning. The school offers these kids shelter, food, and drink without payment. This brings more poor kids to these schools instead of the regular schools.
While the process is wrong to abuse these kids in some places, the school has done more in keeping the kids cool-headed. Sudan is not bringing down the school because of its immense benefits to the kids and country. However, the road to justice is not an easy one for some of these abused kids. While the state is slow in carrying out justice on the perpetrators, some parents have taken it upon themselves to hire lawyers to help them with justice.
Just like in other parts of Africa, where religion has a strong connection, the process of getting justice is not often smooth. Many people give up the fight because they are accused of standing in front of God’s will for the people. Sometimes, the stigma can be huge in a neighbourhood that the victims have to give up the fight for justice.
Time will tell if these kids will get justice or if the Khalwas system of teaching will be reformed to suit everyone without fear of molestation.