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Notes on the Geography of Sudan: The Gezira: Photo 26

world pictures Sudan: The Gezira

The entrance to Bakht er Ruda, the "lucky kindergarten."  This was Sudan's training college for elementary school teachers and was described (in J.D. Tothill's Agriculture in Sudan, 1948) as "the most important single step in educational progress in the last 40 years." The school opened in 1934 not in Khartoum but just north of Dueim and a 120 long miles upstream on the White Nile. Visitors arrived by the fortnightly steamer.

The first principal was V. L. Griffiths, and when he arrived he shocked the staff by seeing the pleasant greenery on the new campus and ordering it all cut down or pulled up.  If the school had trees and flowers, he explained, the school's graduates would expect greenery when they were sent to the villages where they would spend their professional lives. Finding none, they would quit and move to Khartoum.  Was he right? In any case the greenery's back, either to encourage graduates to plant trees or perhaps to placate staff who went nuts without it. Griffiths himself went on to a faculty position at Oxford.

In 1953 he published a book about his Sudan years: An Experiment in Education. In it, he wrote, "Here, on a slight and barren rise in the flat grey plains of clay which flank the White Nile, a small and rather forlorn-looking collection of buildings gradually arose in the winter of 1933-1934. They were built out of sun-dried brick from the same heavy, cracked clay, and plastered with mud and dung to protect them against the tropical storms of midsummer.

"The floors of the rooms were plain earth; there was no mosquito-wiring; water was to be delivered by donkey and cart; 400 trees had been planted on the site for our benefit; we pulled up all but a few. The idea was to live just one stage ahead of the ordinary village, not to set an impossible ideal" (p. 13).

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