October 29, 2012 (KAMPALA) – With more than 150 South Sudanese students graduating from Ugandan universities last week, Sudan Tribune spoke to some about their difficult journeys to success.
- Alepayo Adet (left) with student Abraham Thon (right) (ST)
Simon Mading Makor, a graduate with bachelors degree in procurement, logistics and management from Nkumba University, Kampala, says going to school during the Sudanese civil war was something people did “in their leisure time.”
“Going to school was like a waste of time. We go only when we are free,” Mading recalled.
“We spent some life in cattle camps before beginning other life in school,” he added.
The students graduating from Kampala University, Ndejje, Nkumba, Uganda Christian University and Bugema University organised celebratory ceremonies where they exchanged their stories of the wartime.
Many reminisced about the days when their teachers used animal skin as a chalkboard and charcoal as chalk.
As South Sudanese president, Salva Kiir, has said; the nation does not have to be rebuilt from the ruins of war, it has to be built.
Decades of underinvestment while under rule from Khartoum and under colonial rule has left South Sudan with a legacy of poor infrastructure and social service system.
With internal and external security concerns; road building; civil service capacity building; and health on its list of sectors in need of investment, education has a great deal to contend with.
South Sudan has one of the world’s lowest literacy rates: 27 percent for those aged over 15 and only 19 percent in women in the same age bracket.
Although some of the students graduating received financial support from their families in South Sudan, a large number were self-sponsored.
Although there is currently a repatriation exodus of South Sudanese educated in the Diaspora, there is still a great need for more skilled individuals to contribute to the building of the South Sudanese nation.
There is a great weight of responsibility on the shoulders of the young graduates.
David Agany, a graduate from Kampala University, said he received a poor education in South Sudan and never imagined that he would get to university, let alone graduate.
Abraham Thon Chagai, the former leader of South Sudanese students association in Uganda said he received financial support from his uncles. The next challenge is to continue this trend he explained.
“I will make sure that my children are taken to school and receive the necessary support, as my uncles gave me, for the development of our family and the country at large,” said Chagai, a graduate from Nkumba University with bachelors degree in international relations and diplomacy.
Parents and relatives travelled from South Sudanese towns and villages to witness the graduation ceremonies.
One of those who made the journey was Ajang Deng Awan, a chief from Maar payam [district] of Twic East county in Jonglei state. Deng told graduates at Ndejje University Luwero campus on Friday that education is the only way to eliminate tribalism and local conflicts.
“I am sure we cannot change the thinking in the village but when all our children are educated, tribalism will cease,” Deng said through a translator to cheers from the South Sudanese students.
- David Agany who graduated from Kampala University said he never thought he reach university given his circumstances during the Sudanese civil war (ST)
Parents who financially supported the graduates spoke of the need ensure there are jobs for the graduates in their home nation and the sense that their efforts have now been rewarded by their children’s success.
“I thank God who gave me the initiative to support these children,” said Alapayo Adet Majuong, who supported two university students; Abraham Thon Chagai and Simon Mading Makor of Nkumba University.
He spoke of fighting in the civil war while the children were educated in order to improve the prospects of his nation.
However, the graduates are aware of the challenges awaiting them back home. Chol Atem Ayiei, who graduated with bachelors degree in social work and social administration encouraged his colleagues to become job creators.
“If you seek only government jobs, you will remain poor forever,” said Atem, who was fortunate enough to secure a job before graduation. For many the future will entail the arduous search for employment.