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It was in 1988 that our village was attacked and at this tender age of five years when I encountered my first, but not last, taste of traumatic events when the forces loyal to Khartoum regime overran my village and massacred a number of people. This was the most horrific incidence of killing I ever witnessed at that early age. My father, step mother, my two other siblings and I managed to take refuge in the bushes. However, my mother got separated from us as she couldn’t run since she was pregnant and from then on I did not see her as we fled from home.
We, with other displaced people trekked hundreds of miles to take refuge in Ethiopia. As we walked this journey, we lost many unaccompanied children to wild animals and hunger, since people walked several days without food or water. We depended on leaves of trees as our source of food and drinking muddy water. Hostile communities didn’t spare us either, as they continue to attack us on the way and looted our luggage. Luckily we arrived in Ethiopia safely and fortunately we found a settlement of minors (young children) who had early left their homes for Ethiopia camp ( Pignundo). We started living in a new environment but thought of having lost contacts with my mum really affected me at that early age. Life in the camp was not easy.
In the year 1991, political turmoil engulfed Ethiopia and we were forced to come back to Sudan. We came to Pochalla, a town at the border between Sudan and Ethiopia. Things didn’t get any better as we were attacked again by the Government forces. We walked again for hundreds of miles to Sudan-Kenya border where we proceeded to Kenya as the enemy was still pursuing us. After being received by the Kenya Government we were settled in the border town of Lokichogio. It was in Lokichogio that I found my mother was alive and we were reunited. Months later we were finally relocated to Kakuma Refugee Camp where we lived for most of our life.
It was indeed an incredible moment for me to give back service to refugees.
We started to receive our basic needs, under the auspices of UNHCR, MSF, LWF/DWS, IRC and all other partners of the UN and I began to attend school under the trees. We endured the harsh conditions of windy and dusty Kakuma to pursue education. True, to the saying that “the roots of education are bitter but the fruits are sweet”. I could go to school without shoes and wearing tattered shorts because I never had the privilege of such things. Does that make me a lesser being? That didn’t matter to me a lot as there were also other kids in the same situation as I was. However, I had always had a responsible part of me despite being playful. I could help my mother in doing household chores unlike most boys. Most boys couldn’t do household chores as culture could not allow that. For me, it was different, it was an intricate balance of household chores, hawking business, playing, reading and attending schools. I also did some sort of hawking business to sustain me and my family.
I was very playful and audacious boy. I never knew a bigger life existed outside the Kakuma refugee camp. I always wanted to grow into adulthood and return to South Sudan so that I could become a soldier. As I grew up to upper classes of my primary education, I got exposed to a greater life beyond my reach. I realized that some boys and girls ahead of me in schools were being sponsored by JRS after doing well in their final grade. I emerged as one of the best pupils in the refugee camp as I garnered 510 marks out of 700. I was called to join one of the Kenyan secondary schools and ended up receiving several prizes for being one of the best students under JRS scholarship and graduated with an A-.
Life was still bleak for a young man like me who had just finished high school and has a dream of pursuing medicine at the university. As I wondered on how to further my studies, God brought about a significant change in my life when my dream finally came true; it was on 6th October 2013 when I was invited for an interview for university scholarship in Kenya. Here, I met Rebecca Sutton as one of the panellists of Windle Trust, from the look of things she and the rest of the panellists were quite fascinated and impressed with my hard work and humble beginning. Few weeks later I was among the successful applicants selected for internal university scholarship. I was offered scholarship by Windle Trust (Highland Foundation) to study medicine at the University. I reported to Moi University Medical School on 10th January 2005. Windle Trust organized my reporting to college, paying the tuition fees and catered for other requirements. I worked hard to appreciate the good work of Windle Trust and after six gruelling years of medical training at Moi University, I graduated in December 2010 with medical degree.
In May 2014, I joined IRC as Medical Doctor working in Yida Refugee Settlement. It was indeed an incredible moment for me to give back services to refugees. I was excited about this since I was once a refugee and now I made it and could offer critical health services to the vulnerable refugees’ population. I truly believe that being a refugee is not inability. While serving at refugee camp, I continued to mentor some of the refugees’ workmates and students to pursue their studies. I have played my role in making the society a better place. Not in a big way but in a small gradual way. I have been a role model to young under-privileged students who at the point of almost giving up look up to me and recollect themselves for greater achievement.
Currently, I work for UNICEF, South Sudan based in Rumbek as Health Officer. Over time, the humanitarian work has indeed exposed me and changed my perception towards health interventions. My passion was initially to become a surgeon/gynaecologist, however, my experience in the field now prepared me for interest in public/population health issues. As the saying goes “prevention is better than cure”. Today as I walk this path of medical career, I would like to have an impact in the life of many vulnerable population especially women and children and bring about positive change in the health sector.
A journey of several miles start with a single step. It has been a long and painstakingly cantankerous journey but worth it and God made it successful. I wouldn’t say it was the worst experience but it has been a share of trouble and sweet moments. Through the support of Windle Trust (Highland Foundation) I have grown from a refugee boy to a man and doctor, pursuing a higher degree in Public Health/Epidemiology/ Health Policy, Planning and Financing and am in an ideal position of having the privilege of playing an integral part in some of the most important policies and advocacy in the health sector in South Sudan and bringing about necessary reforms for benefits to the community, to patients and also to me.
James was born in Morobo County of the modern day Republic of South Sudan and in 1990 was forced to flee with his family to Uganda as a refugee.
James focused hard on acquiring and remaining in education whilst a refugee and after overcoming many challenges, James found the support to attend the Ugandan Christian University Mukono where he received a FIRST CLASS Honours Degree in Education in 2001 and he began teaching.
In 2005, immediately after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in his country, James returned home to help rebuild his shattered country having spent 15 years in exile in Uganda. He joined Yei teacher Training college as the Principal to train teachers. This is where James is to date.
In 2007, Windle Trust International supported James to further his skills with a Masters at the Institute of Education, University of London – the leading educational institution in the world in collaboration with the Commonwealth Fund. As a result of this training and under James’ guidance Yei Teacher Training College has become one of the leading and most celebrated teacher training colleges in the region. In 2012, James’ college emerged the best in the regional examinations beating 52 other colleges in the region. This performance was repeated in 2015 where his college also obtained the top accolade. Through his work, over 3000 teachers and education managers have been trained in South Sudan. His role as Principal included formulating and implementing various management and educational policies for the institution.
I remain indebted to Windle for accompanying me in my life journey from refugee to education specialist.
James is committed to rebuilding South Sudan. He continues to play a major role in nationwide debates and seminars on education and one of the biggest impacts of James’ work, in his view, was the formation of the South Sudan Association of Teacher Training Institutions (SSATTI) – an umbrella body that brings together all the teacher training institutions in the country with a view of networking and improving the teacher education sector.
James remains indebted to Windle for accompanying him in his life journey from refugee to educational specialist and with their continuing support today believes that the sky should not be the limit but the starting point. James has consistently advocated for a better education for all, holding the view that education is a collective responsibility of all and his long term goal is to work to elevate YTTC to become a full University situated within a peaceful South Sudan.
James’ love and commitment to education in general and teacher training in particular is unparalleled. Some South Sudanese have fondly described James as the “Napoleon of Education” while others simply say he is the educational pillar and champion in his country. Whatever is said about James, he remains the same hardworking, pragmatic and a servant-leader of his people in the education sector for the benefit of his community and nation.
Nyandeng Malek is the first female State governor in the history of South Sudan. She has served both as governor and as an education minister in Warrap State in South Sudan and has strongly promoted girls education, in a country where access to education for girls is often denied and
Due to the difficulties in South Sudan, Malek was sent to Egypt to continue her education, where she became active in Sudan People’s Liberation Movement. Malek Deliech then applied to Windle and won a scholarship to the University of Wolverhampton on the UK Masters course
Nyandeng remains committed to girls’ education and is an example of how Windle alumni continue to support Windle in achieving the overall aims of promoting access to education and giving girls and other vulnerable people the opportunity to take up leadership roles.
Mohammed Mukhtar won a scholarship from Windle to attend Glasgow Caledonian University whilst a refugee living in Dadaab Refugee Camp having fled from Somalia. Mohammed gained an MSc (with Distinction) in International Project Management in the UK. Mohammed initially worked in the refugee camp with CARE as a High School Principal but subsequently it was possible to return to Somalia – where he is now taking a leadership role in the planning and implementation of charitable projects that counter famine and promote food security with the NGO Action Contre La Faim.
Getachew Betru was one of Windle’s earliest beneficiaries – having fled from Ethiopia to Kenya to escape the oppressive regime of Mengistu Haile Maryam in the 1980s. In Kenya, he met the founder of Windle – Doctor Hugh Pilkington, who assisted him to continue his disrupted engineering studies by sending him to Herriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland where he completed a Masters in Engineering.
Windle then continued the support with a doctorate in Civil Engineering. Getachew then returned to Ethiopia where he established an engineering firm and has played a leadership role in developing the railways across Ethiopia and is currently the Chair of the Ethiopian Railways.
Getachew then, himself, ran a scholarship programme for Windle for ten years assisting refugees in Ethiopia to study at University level with the DAFI scheme as a way continuing to support the aims of Windle and its founder, Dr. Hugh Pilkington.
Anthony Makana was assisted by Windle – as a refugee in Uganda having fled the civil war in Sudan – at both undergraduate and for a Master’s degree in Post-War Reconstruction studies at York University in 2004. Anthony returned to South Sudan in 2004 and has now served as a government minister both in his home state and in the national government, where he was Minister for Infrastructure and Roads. Anthony is now the Speaker of the National Parliament and continues to uphold the values of Windle by promoting inclusive democracy in South Sudan in very challenging circumstances and remains committed to the ideals of fair and just government.
Windle supported Anthony Poggo for an MBA at Oxford Brookes University in 2001. Subsequently he served as the first African director of ACROSS and was appointed Bishop of Kajo-Keji in South Sudan where he has played a leading role in the development of the area and in peace-making in the midst of conflict. His peace-making role involved talking directly to both warring parties, army and militia bringing them together to mitigate conflict. His outstanding qualities have been recognised by the ArchBishop of Canterbury and from October 2016 became the Archbishop’s advisor on Anglican Church affairs with world-wide international responsibilities.
Anthony retains a deep commitment and involvement in promoting a peaceful future for South Sudan.
15 years old Hope Deng a South Sudanese refugee in Rhino Camp Refugee settlement in S.2 at Rhino Camp High School. She was in school until 2013 during holidays when war broke up in South Sudan and her father a former soldier in the government forces was slaughtered in their house that they fled into Uganda seeking refuge. She is currently in Senior Two at Rhino camp High school and her mother makes an effort to pay her school fees. She is happily in school.
“If the school was not opened up, I wouldn’t be in school because my mum couldn’t afford school fees in Secondary schools outside the settlement.” I’m happy though I have to travel a long distance of about seven Kilometres from home from my village to the school.”
Nsabiyumva Clementine, a 25 Years old Burundian Refugee who came to the Nakivale in 2012 from Burundi testifies of how vocational skills training have changed his life and that of his family.
I joined Nakivale VTC in February 2013 and completed a 4 months course in Carpentry and Joinery. I combined with fellow refugees and we bought tools and opened our own carpentry workshop. Life has never been the same ever since. I can now support myself my family.
I am very grateful and appreciative. I am what I am today because of DAFI scholarship. I qualified as a biomedical laboratory technologist and I am happy about my qualification I am working with a manufacturing company in Kampala. We manufacture rapid diagnostic tests. After dropping out of a Human Medicine course in Bukavu University in Congo due to the war, my dreams were shattered, but thank God, the DAFI SCHOLARSHIP HAS ENABLED ME TO GET BACK ON MY FEET. I will forever be grateful.