For 18 months reporter Fateh al-Rahman al-Hamdani filmed inside 23 Islamic schools, or khalwas, across Sudan for a BBC News Arabic investigation. He uncovered systemic child abuse, with boys as young as five years old routinely chained, shackled and beaten by the “sheikhs”, or religious men in charge of the schools. The investigation also found evidence of sexual abuse.

We visit some of the nearly 30,000 Sudanese khalwas, where children are taught to memorise the Koran. The schools receive money from the government and private donors both in Sudan and around the world. Because they charge no fees, many families consider them an alternative to mainstream education, especially in remote villages that may not have government-run schools. Students board there, only returning home for the holidays.

We meet two 14-year-old boys, Ismail and Mohamed Nader, who were beaten so badly at one khalwa that doctors worried they might not survive, and hear how their families decide to take legal action. We join Fateh as he confronts the sheikh in charge of the school where they were assaulted. And we hear what Sudan’s new transitional government has to say about reforming khalwas.

Presented by Paul Bakibinga, narrating the words of Fateh al-Rahman al-Hamdani.

Photo: A young boy with his feet shackled and chained. Credit: Jess Kelly/BBC)

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