Editor’s note: This article is part of a package based on research by Al-Fanar Media into job benefits and protections for professors at universities in the Arab world. For an overview of the findings, see “Lacking Job Security and Benefits, Many Arab Professors Lose Interest in Academia.”
At the beginning of this academic year, professors at the University of Khartoum, Sudan’s largest public university, elected an independent union council with representatives from each college in the university. A higher nationwide council including the presidents of each university union will be elected later.
“I have a complex feeling, that combines happiness with fear of the responsibility to go through the new experience,” Manal Amer, secretary-general of the new union council at the University of Khartoum, said in a telephone interview.
“We have suffered from unions loyal to the former political regime, which used to appoint its council from among its loyalists, which turned them into tools of oppression and not support agencies,” said Amer, who is a professor in the Faculty of Science.
The politically appointed unions established during former president Omar Al-Bashir’s rule were disbanded after he was overthrown amid popular protests in April 2019. The unions’ financial assets were seized by the transitional government headed by Abdalla Hamdok, pending a review of the regulations governing unions and their conformity with democracy and independence.
Worries About Unions’ Independence
Some academics say the lack of independent financial support for the new unions may reopen the door for the government to interfere in the unions’ work.
“Government financial support will weaken the independence of unions and make them vulnerable to political interference and manipulation,” Babaker Hamad Abbas, who is also a professor in the Faculty of Science at the University of Khartoum, said in a telephone interview.