Al-Sibyan, No. 1, 1 January 1956. Copyright Ministry of Education and Guidance.
Al-Sibyan, No. 1, 1 January 1956. Copyright Ministry of Education and Guidance.

Al-Sibyan Magazine

Al-Sibyan, No. 1, 1 February 1978. Copyright Ministry of Education and Guidance.
Ministry of Education and Guidance

In the 1940s, Sudan’s educators began to recognise the potential of the periodical press as an effective tool for learning. Sudan’s Ministry of Education then founded a Publications Bureau, to maintain and extend literacy among former school-goers. In 1946, the bureau, chaired by Awad Satti, introduced the first children magazine in the Arab World, Al-Sibyan (Youth), subsidised by the government, and sold in schools and book shops throughout Sudan. This was to become one of the most popular and well known publications of Sudan’s mid-20th century.

Al-Sibyan contained humorous stories, Sudanese folk tales, world news excerpts, world novels and a double page spread for girls with a story and an embroidery design or cooking recipe. It contained also competition and puzzles. Al-Sibyan’s cartoon strip, featuring the adventures of Uncle Tango, that always conveyed a key moral of the story, became extremely popular among children and adults alike. This popularity was to the extent that when Uncle Tango appeared to die in one issue, the editor received elegies, including one from a prominent poet.

Al-Sibyan was one of the most prolific journals of the 1940s and 50s. Its print reached 15,000 copies within two years, reaching 20,000 by 1953. Subsidies and logistical support from the Education Department explain its wide circulation. In comparison, Sudan’s largest daily newspapers at the time, such as al-Ray al-Amm, had circulations of only about 4,000 copies as of 1956. Al-Sibyan reflected a larger government effort to extend the primary school system throughout the country and to boost literacy levels. By 1956, the independent Sudan’s Ministry of Education was able to claim a nationwide literacy rate of 22.9% for males and 4% for females, making a big improvement from only 50 years before.

In 2019 Sudan Memory provided equipment and training and supported the scanning of a large collection of Al-Sibyan magazine issues held in the University of Khartoum Library and in the personal collection of Hassanat Satti. Hassanat Satti’s father, Awad Satti, was the first editor of Al-Sibyan and first Sudan Ambassador to the UK.

Khartoum, Sudan

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