Mandour Elmahdi

Mandour El Mahdi (March 1919 - October 1981), also known as Ustaz Mandour El Mahdi, was one of the key pioneers in the development of Education in Sudan after the country received independence from Britain in 1956, and he later became Director of Education in Saudi Arabia. He is also the author of A Short History of the Sudan (1965)[1] which was one of the first history books to be written about what was then Africa's biggest country; it was used for the history syllabus in Sudan up until 1989.

Professor Mandour El Mahdi
Mandour Elmahdi.jpg
Principal of the Institute of Education, Bakht er Ruda (Sudan)
In office
Director of Education (Saudi Arabia)
In office
Principal of the Institute of Education (Sudan)
In office
Personal details
BornMarch 1919
Umbukole, Sudan
DiedOctober 1981

Early yearsEdit

Mandour was born in Umbukole, a small village located in the Northern state of Kurti county; Sudan. At a very young age, his mother died from Typhoid fever and his father provided for the family until he became ill and was unfit to work. His eldest brother decided to go into labor in order to support the family. However, Mandour grew up to be interested in receiving an education and was enrolled in a small primary school in Umbukole. He then enrolled at a Secondary school and later did his pre-university examinations, coming second in the Sudan, after the notable Abdalla Eltayeb. He was then accepted into the Faculty of Education at Gordon Memorial College, formally renamed University College Khartoum (now known as the University of Khartoum) and was later transferred to the University of London for his final year.


Sudan received independence from the United Kingdom on January 1, 1956, and Ismail al-Azhari of the Democratic Unionist Party became the first Prime Minister of the Republic of Sudan. After his graduation and marriage, Mandour began working for the Institute of Education for several years, and in 1960, he was selected to partake in the Eleventh Session of the UNESCO General Conference in Paris 1960.[2] Shortly afterwards, Mandour was commissioned by the Government of Sudan to head the Institute of Education in Bakht er Ruda.

Bakht er RudaEdit

The Institute of Education in Bakht er Ruda was established in 1934 by Mr. P. Garifet and it was the first Institute of Education in Sudan. The main objectives of the Institute was to enhance the school curriculum across the country and to train and improve the abilities of teachers who had not received primary education. Garifet became the first dean/principal of the institution and held the post from October 1934 until February 1950. Upon being chosen to head the institution, Mandour and his family moved to Bakht er Ruda and he was its Principal from July 1961 until July 1966.[3] It was during his time at Bakht er Ruda that he wrote his famous history book, A Short History of the Sudan, and following his five years at the institute, he played a key role in laying the foundations of the education systems in Sudan whilst continuing to fulfill the main objectives of the Institution. Mandour became well known for his abundant knowledge as well as his strong personality and kindness. A common 'story' demonstrating his kindness was often told by the locals in Bakht er Ruda. One day, whilst he was on his way to work, he saw a young boy who appeared to be guiding his father. He approached them, and asked the boy ″why are you not in school″? The boy replied ″I have to look after my father for he is ill and I cannot afford to go to school″. Mandour then immediately enrolled the child at a school in Bakht er Ruda, paid for his fees, gave the young boy pocket money and supported his family. The young child proved to be very intelligent, and worked hard throughout his education career and he is now the director of one of the banks in Sudan.

Principal of the Institute of Education, SudanEdit

Following Mandour's success at Bakht er Ruda, the El azhari administration appointed him as Vice-Principal of the Institute of Education in Sudan in 1967 and shortly afterwards, Principal of the Institute of Education in Sudan in 1968. He continued to plan and implement education systems in other parts of Sudan and worked closely with Professor Abdalla Eltayeb. However, his days in office were numbered. Following the military coup of 1969 which was headed by Gaafar Nimeiry, El Azhari and many other democrats were either imprisoned or sacked and the Nimeiry administration sought to change the current education system in Sudan.

Mandour strongly opposed the new non-democratic government for he was close with El Azhari and believed that the current system was extremely reasonable. At a national conference held in 1969 to discuss the adoption of a new education ladder, the new minister of education (Mohiuddin Saber) talked about changing the current step-ladder, and mandour stated that it was not necessary, and that if it were to happen it would mean that more classes would have to be built in order to accommodate more students which may take time. Mohiuddin replied by saying that while the change took place, the students could be taught outside of the classes and ″underneath trees if necessary″. At this point, it is known that mandour stood up from his seat and said to Saber that he knew nothing about education, the Sudan or its history, and that the first thing he should know is that in many parts of Sudan, there are ″no trees″. He then took his briefcase and walked out of the conference. Several other incidents between mandour and the new minister led to him being sacked from his position as Principal of the Institute of Education just two months after the military coup took place.

Entry into Saudi ArabiaEdit

Just a couple of days after the news of his dismissal hit headlines, the Saudi Ambassador to Sudan showed up at Mandour's house in Khartoum and told him that the Minister of Education in Saudi Arabia had heard of his unfair sacking and that he, along with Saudi officials, wanted him to become the first Director of Education. Mandour accepted the invitation, and he and his family moved to Saudi Arabia in 1970. After working in Saudi for a several years, Abdalla Eltayeb sent him a letter stating that he had been made the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Khartoum and that he wanted him to lead the Faculty of Education and to become the Vice-President of the University. Mandour negotiated a temporary deal with the Minister of Education in Saudi Arabia and then set off to work at the University in 1976. However, Abdalla Eltayeb was shortly sacked by the Nimeiry administration and Mandour immediately resigned from his post and returned to Saudi Arabia.

Throughout his time in Saudi he appeared in many TV interviews, several of which were aired internationally. He was also chosen to deliver a key note speech in front of the Saudi Royal family where he spoke about the importance of education and gave his views about the current education systems in the country. Whilst returning to Sudan for a vacation, it is known that President El Nimeiry sent a representative to his house in Khartoum, and the representative said to Mandour; ″President Nimeiry wishes to apologise for any inconvenience he may have caused, and he wishes to meet with you as soon as possible and he is willing to offer you a high position in the ministry″. Mandour replied by saying; ″Tell El Nimeiry that if he comes to my house, two things may happen. Either, I will tell him to get out, or I will get up and leave my own house. Tell El Nimeiry that I do not wish to see him and that I refuse to be a part of his regime″.

Mandour was offered the chance to work for UNESCO and the Minister of Education in Saudi Arabia recommended that it would be better if his own country nominated him, but the Nimeiry administration declined due to the fact he was against their regime. The Saudi's then decided that they would nominate him to represent their country, and prior to him winning the nomination, he worked for UNESCO for over two years.

In the early 1980s, Mandour was chosen to become the Vice-Chancellor of the Islamic University of Madinah, but fell ill shortly after he started working and later died in London in October 1981. He is buried in the Khatmiyya graveyard in Sudan.


During his short time as Vice-President of the University of Khartoum, Mandour founded the Department of Special Education[4] as a means of preparing and training future teachers to work in educational institutions. In 1993, the department was integrated with the department of applied psychology and in 2007, a newer education program for training the specific needs for student teachers was recently approved by the University of Khartoum Senate.

After his death, Abdalla Eltayeb published a poetry book called four tears for four great men. One of the men he talks about is Mandour, and he describes him as being one of the 'Greatest men in Sudan'.

A hall at the University of Khartoum is named in Mandour's honor, and his book has continued to encourage many people around the world in discovering the rich story of Sudan's long history.


  1. ^ Mahdi, Mandour El (1984). A short history of the Sudan (repr. ed.). London [u.a.]: Oxford Univ. Press. p. 154. ISBN 0-19-913158-9.
  2. ^ "UNESCO General Conference, Paris 1960" (PDF). United Nations.
  3. ^ "Dean's of the Institute of Education, Bakht er Ruda".
  4. ^ "Department of Special Education, Faculty of Education - University of Khartoum". University of Khartoum.

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