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Future after graduation for Sudan Scholars?

By Daniel Akech | December 12, 2014

Here is a partial list of our former scholars who are excelling in world leading universities (G11 stands for graduating class of 2011 etc and SSF – Sudan Scholarship Foundation):

G11 SSF: Sudan scholars who won scholarships to Canadian Universities in 2011:

  1. John Chol Kon (Actuarial and Financial Mathematics, McMaster University)
  2. Panther Anyieth Jak (Finance, York University)
  3. Charles Adom E-Deyi (Sustainable and Renewable Energy Engineering, Carleton University)
  4. Kuot Manyang Anyieth (Mathematics & Economics, general Business, University of Northern British Columbia(UNBC)
  5. Garang Mayen Riak Garang (Geology with an emphasis on Petroleum, University of Calgary)
  6. Ajang Bul Ajang (Computer Science & Statistics, University of British Columbia).
  7. Lodai Peter (Biochemistry, University of Windsor)
  8. Mangar Abuoi Athiek (Biotechnology, University of Toronto)

G12 SSF: Sudan scholars who won scholarships to Canadian Universities in 2012:

  1. Majok Malual Arok (Mathematical economics, University of Guelph)
  2. Jacob Mach Marial (Chemical Engineering, University of Toronto)
  3. Lino Akin (Undecided, but currently on the dean’s list)
  4.  Bior Bol Garang (Electrical Engineering, Carleton University)

G13 SSF: Sudan scholars who won scholarships to Canadian Universities in 2013:

  1. Majok Lony (Economics, Lakehead University)
  2. Aguer Ajang Aguer (Electrical Engineering, Lakehead University)
  3. Daniel Deng Thel Deng (Ryerson University)

G14 SSF: Sudan scholars who won scholarships to Canadian Universities in 2013:
1. Simon Ikebek

Sudan scholars who won scholarships to US universities:
1. Mator Aketch (Engineering, George Town)
2. Paul Kut John (Engineering, Missouri)

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The SSF Class of 2014!

By Daniel Akech | December 12, 2014

The graduation of the following 27 students means that in the last 7 years, SSF has graduated 300+ students from high school.  The grades are not out yet (as they will be out by the beginning of the year), but we are hopeful that this time around, number 7 and number 16 on the list, both females will likely get A’s and so we are likely to have our first female to win a scholarship to Canada.

S/N NAME SCHOOL GRADE

1

Alaak Andrew Dau AIC Moi Academy

12

2

Mariak Santino St. Joseph Boys

12

3

Gak Ayach Gak Muthaiti Sec. Sch

12

4

Garang Lalik Awan Nyang’ori H. Sch

12

5

Debra Ajok Mayen Kaptagat Girls

12

6

Deborah Yier Makeny Lockwood Girl’s H.Sch

12

7

Deborah Ayen Matiop God Bless You H.Sch

12

8

Awan Garang Aroch Loreto Nakuru sch

12

9

Atem Abuoi Stephen Loreto Nakuru Sch

12

10

Awer  Gai Chol Lelmokwo H. Sch

12

11

Bul Diing Arok Freds High Sch

12

12

Thon Luol Heros Academy

12

13

Aguek Andrea Arop Afraha H.Sch

12

14

Benedict Jemuk Wani Lelboinet Boys H. Sch

12

15

Mayen Mach St. Luke’s Boys

12

16

Elizabeth Adit Agou Lugulu Girls’ H.Sch

12

17

Ayiew David Deng Kinyui Boys H. Sch

12

18

Kuany Johnson Jok Anester Boys H. sch

12

19

Malual  Johnson Jok Anester  Boys H.Sch

12

20

Miabok Joseph Dudi Ihithe Sec Sch

12

21

Deng Jacob Bior Menegai H. Sch

12

22

Mayen Lual Nuul Kanjuri

12

23

Deng Manyok Kanjuri H. Sch

12

24

Ayuen Philip Garang Anester Boys H.Sch

12

25

Kuol David Malou Anester Boys H. Sch

12

26

Gattuak Rieth William Armsteve H.Sch

12

27

Angony Nhial Philip Jomo Kenyatta H. Sch

12

 

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Difficulty of deciding on how best to help in Africa

By Daniel Akech | November 14, 2014

A foreigner on a humanistic adventure arrived in a village in South Sudan with his wife to volunteer in a hospital built there by a foreign NGO. The neighboring tribesmen attacked the village one afternoon killing and wounding scores and made off with herds of cattle. The foreigner discovered that the government soldiers sent to nocturnally reconnoiter around the facility dossed down at night, which made the place highly insecure. The villagers come to the hospital seeking treatment, but the absence of their financial contribution made it hard for the hospital to buy medicines. Yes, the villagers are poor only in western terms, but they have livestock, which could be sold in the nearby town for money! If this NGO knew that running this facility would depend on raising fund almost indefinitely, would it go ahead with the plan of erecting it? The couple left after nearly six months of trying their best to no avail. Their faith in saving Africa was strained but not broken just yet.

In a neighboring village, a young local begged a foreigner to leave his only Macbook computer with him to which the fed up foreigner retorted with why do you think I bought it in the first place. In another village in a neighboring country, another foreigner had to beg the entire village to help him with the digging of a borehole for their use. Men of this village conditioned their labor on the foreigner providing them with food for work! One of these men later on returned to beg the foreigner to give him the coke he had in his hand.

In another village, the World Bank erected a pricy Center for Women to be used for training. Three years later, some villagers kept their cows in the empty facility.

As early as 2010, the Japanese renovated, at an astronomical cost, the former Juba Multi-purpose center by the riverside and re-baptized it Multi-Service Training Centre. No student has graduated at this facility until today.

Other facilities, such as the Duk Lost Boy Clinic and Malek Academy, that had been built with and operated mainly with foreign money had been ransacked after the December 15th Conflict.

It must be true that Africans themselves have to do more to help themselves. But on the saving Africa front, foreigners can help not to build things for Africa but to build Africans, who will then build Africa. This is an option. Under no circumstance is a foreigner obliged to help at all. A badly administered medicine can kill.

What about educating Africans?

There is enough evidence to believe that the educated Africans have not been very helpful in uplifting Africa out of her deplorable state; the educated Africans rather are the very people who have been contributing to such a state. One may conclude here that it is indeed pointless to bother with educating Africans. Ah, but part of the reason these few educated ended up destroying Africa is because they use the ignorance of their own people and so if everyone was literate people would be slow to jump on the warring ship because asking questions would certainly slow them down until basic sanity normally acquired in high school catches them before they sail off to rape, maim, and kill. Therefore, the effort should be focused on fighting ignorance (illiteracy).

Three frontiers in helping could be university education, vocational training, and high school education.

University education is expensive! How does one convince say an American family to pay for the university education of an African when the children of this family take up loans for their own education? You can say that there are no options for loans in Africa, but that won’t make university education cheaper to sale. How does one sell the idea of this kind of education to a western audience?

Vocational education is cheaper but there are two things militating against it now. Among South Sudanese, the brightest students are not for vocational education. It is a career path reserved for low C and D students. In the USA, the current war in South Sudan has made it difficult for anyone to imagine there would be jobs in South Sudan soon. So why would you give an education when there will be no jobs after the training. The choice between University education and vocational education in the USA favors the former in general although recently in the newspapers the trend could change.
How does one sell this kind of education to a western audience?

High school in Kenya is very cheap. But if it is offered in the refugee camp for free by the UN, why would anyone want to pay for it? There is this scholarship in Canada called WUSC and a number of students of the Sudan Scholarship Foundation have been winning it. If education in Kenya outside the refugee camp betters one’s chance of getting a good grade in order to qualify for WUSC, then this will be a good reason to continue offering high school education in boarding schools.
How does one sell this kind of education to a western audience?

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New School Year

By Daniel Akech | January 10, 2014

Attention Sudan Scholars:

Due to the conflict in South Sudan, our mentors some of whom were trapped in South Sudan were not able to gather your report cards in time for the beginning of the year. Please help us pay your school fees on time by calling David Majush Kunjok and provide the current information on your school. David’s number: 0721678781 (call only if you are in the program or a guardian of a student in the program; don’t ask for scholarship opportunity for such questions are addressed through public announcements here on the site).

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On Education

By Daniel Akech | December 6, 2013

Making a honest living in an environment as South Sudan has become very expensive in recent years and one finds it very hard to compete unless she is highly creative. The education there then must be designed in such a way as to produce creative citizens. The focus must shift from the current importance the South Sudanese society lays on ‘form’ rather than on ‘substance.’ The utility of a future literate citizen should not be calculated on the basis of the quantity of degrees she possesses but on what she can deliver. To achieve a notable progress, our education must produce creative scholars who will not only lay their eyes on becoming the next top politicians but aim on something much more prestigious than that – a good scientist among other useful apolitical careers. It is nothing more than a wishful thinking to hope that Terrence Tao will emerge out of our current classrooms. Someone has to do something. Academically promising students across South Sudan ought to be identified and pulled away from their present classrooms that offer them nothing more than a raw memorization and placed in a highly competitive setting where the boundaries of what they can learn are marked off by their desire to not want to go any further.

The preceding paragraph is a summary of a few words I shared on ‘what I would like to see happening’ at a local bible study group for men, on the last Saturday of October this year (2013). The men wanted to hear my travel stories associated with a project known as ‘Walking Buildings’ – aka Sudan Scholarship Foundation,  which has offered high school scholarships to at least 325 refugee high school students out of Kakuma refugee camp and her adjacent neighborhoods where South Sudanese and Nuba people live in Kenya with ambiguous immigration statuses.

I told the story of the project and the windows of opportunities (outside of our scholarship) which had opened up to our former scholars upon graduating from high school. Such opportunities include various scholarships for university studies outside of Africa for those scholars with superior records. I enumerate a few success stories here not as a way of boasting about the project but rather to highlight an encouraging trend warranting the continuity of the project.

In 2010, 2011, 2012, our scholars have been going to Canada under WUSC scholarships in a group of up to 8 students each year.

Two have obtained scholarships to top universities in the USA while one is working on a masters degree at a prestigious university in the UK.

Within Africa, a few have gotten scholarships to top universities in East Africa from relatives or from other charitable South Sudanese.

Yet others, starting with a little more than nothing in their pockets, have moved to Juba after graduation and excelled in business to the point where they are now in positions of helping others.

Asked to explain how we obtain the fund to keep the project running, the group was surprised to learn that we do not raise fund for our project. We do not ask people to contribute to the project nor do we even try to tell anyone that if nothing is done there will be no future for South Sudan. We do not believe that we are changing South Sudan because that will be a false hope. I use real examples to explain why investing in a ‘walking building’ is the best one can do if one desires to help effectively.

One man, a familiar face pulled me aside at the end of my talk and asked me which is better: for him and his wife to move to Africa to help or for them to continue helping while staying in the USA?

The latter option is cheaper monetarily speaking but in order for one’s help to be effective one must have a trustworthy person (yes, such types exist in Africa but rare to find) at the other end to make sure the help reaches the targeted recipients.  To sustain a westerner or a western oriented human being in Africa is a very costly endeavor – the UN does even pay them hardships allowances.

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On the Road

By Daniel Akech | August 11, 2013

July 18th 2013

We just landed in Lodwar and boarded a taxi on alighting. After fueling the car, we hit the road for Loki via Kakuma. The cars have devoured the surface of the road and what remained looked very ugly – marked with numerous potholes filled with dog-tooth stones. The driver tried to beat the approaching darkness as well as to avoid bumping into potholes. He avoided neither. The result has been a bumpy ride at the dead of the night. The passengers laughed at me on noticing that I had fastened my seatbelt. One of them said that ‘from here to Loki one does not need a safety belt.’  I guess it is not because the road infrastructure does not demand it but simply because the enforcement of such rules is non-existence here as our eyes did not see a single policeman for the whole ride.

 

The other obstacle was the stream of water flowing at leg-deep and cutting across the road here and there. Although the current was weak it sowed fear in us whenever we watched the car dived its head into the stream to cross. It takes a lot of guts to drive on this road at night. Armed men could pop out and stop the car with a bullet or an on coming vehicle could collide with ours head on as the visibility of the road disappeared into the night and the headlights weren’t sufficient to keep off the darkness. The driver did even enjoy talking on the phone on numerous occasions; either he was crazy or I appeared to be untested in risk-taking. The sky and earth seemed to have clipped together as the darkness swallowed the entire surrounding. The car looked as though it was entering a dark endless tunnel.

 

Luckily we managed to arrive in Loki three hours after leaving Lodwar.  We headed to a little dump of a hotel in Loki called the Sundbird. My room had two beds – one small one and one big one. I thought my company and I had to share the same room and so I chose the smaller of the two beds out of etiquette but I was told that the entire room is for myself. The wall looked dirty but the beds were neatly prepared.

 

After taking a shower and feasted on a hill of a chicken, washing it down with a coke, I returned to my room and slept like a log. The noise streaming in through the windows from the neighboring noisy Club near Makuti Lodge did not bother me much because I was so tired.

 

July 19th 2013

The morning broke in a din of noise from birds crowing to customers rushing out to line up to access water for morning routine. A jerrycan is used to draw water from the tank and then one uses it to wash one’s face – one customer at a time.

 

After morning routine, I asked my company for permission to allow me to go out for a walk. He took boxes to the airstrip for weighing. I took a walk towards South Sudan to a stream that usually carries water away from the dry Turkana District to South Sudan.  I stopped there and watched men working on the new road, laying bricks. The local men began to drive their goats and cows to the grazing areas. It looked spectacular to watch each herder trying to separate his goats and cows from the other herds. For security reasons, every herder had a gun tottering on his shoulder.

 

One small boy about 10 or 11 years old came carrying a gun and driving his herd. An onlooker dressed in Somali attire pulled out his smart phone and wanted to take a photo but another Turkana man objected and shouted threatening to fight if the photo of the boy was taken. I kept my camera in my pocket for the entire time after learning the danger of taking pictures from this episode.

 

On my way back, a little girl about 6 or 7 walked beside me rolling a container full of water by kicking it or pushing it. The coarse stones and thorns on the roadside caused the container to leak. The little girl rushed to get a paste of soil to mend the leakage. Life is utterly rough for the Turkana children in Loki. Loki is a city without a life of its own. It has been left by many organizations that actually made it famous. Like everything that depended on the war, the city’s life depended upon the Sudan civil war and soon that war ended the city began to die a slow death. There is no longer an airplane that comes to Loki from the other side of Kenya. The side of Kenya from Lodwar to Loki is virtually ignored by the government. Loki functions differently from the rest of places in Kenya. The sight of a civilian tottering an AK47 is a common sight in Loki. The food is dirt cheap here and so are places to lay one’s head but the risk is so high.  Even South Sudanese can consider the place unsafe! The place called Link [pictured here] used to be a very busy place here in Loki. I heard that a South Sudanese business man was slain here a while back causing Sudanese traders to shift across the border into South Sudanese territory leaving the Link to wild thorny trees that have immediately made it into a frightening bush.

I am now setting my  alarm for  five in the morning. I will be at the airstrip by six in the morning, where a cargo plane, will take me to Yida Refugee Camp.

 

July 20th 2013

The daybreak found us at the airstrip waiting anxiously.  After a suspicious stamping of passports for exit [because we had to pay roughly $40 each in order to exit, which is strange as far as the official laws of Kenya controlling visas are concerned], we were cleared to board.

 

As noted elsewhere, the system in Loki functions differently compare to other towns in Kenya. Whenever an opportunity avails itself, those employed by the authorities on meager salaries have to boost their salaries by creating their own rules, which they toughly enforced themselves. The authorities well aware that the weaknesses in the system are due to the government’s fault of neglecting the entire Turkana area, have to use silence as the tacit agreement with the local workers at places such as Loki to do whatever they wish provided their acts do not raise a lot of problems. If you do not comply with local people with keys to stamping your papers, you will lose a lot and especially for someone who will spend some times in Loki on a return trip, the risk of not complying now carries a high interest rate in the future. The lesson we learn is that in any place where one cannot rely on the intervention of the authorities, it is wise to flow along with the current to avoid unnecessarily risking a lot. We paid our ‘illegal exit fees’ and the person we paid money to, a young man with reddened teeth, could not even break the note we gave him and so we had to leave him the change and boarded; he was so happy that when I asked him to take our pictures with the pilot, he accepted with alacrity even though under normal circumstances the same person would warn us of the danger of such an act.

 

We sat at the tail of the plane because the cargo filled the entire plane except for a few seats at the back for two of us. The other passenger, whose job is to help unload the plane, did not even have a seat; he went to sleep on top of the cargo for the first one hour of the flight and when I awoke I saw him scrolling here and there; at one point he snatched off the exit sign on his back, which he fixed back easily, while trying to reach us because my company asked for water after our snacks invited an itching thirst. But seeing  the exit sign hanging loose and number of parts supported with cardboards exposing other defects, an air of fear entered into me. [The plane was supposed to come back the next day to bring more cargo but it could not land here at Yida because its wheels failed to poke out. After circling without succeeding, the plane rerouted to Juba].

 

I went to sleep for at least an hour and a half. Then we approached Yida. The spectacular scenery combed with lush green vegetation hugged the plane. The grass huts with polythene bag roofs dotted the magnificent vegetation. We alighted. Children swamped the plane as we waited for the arrival of the education coordinator in the camp [Magati] to take care of the cargo and take me to the camp manager.

 

After unloading the plane, we took off for the office of the camp manager. The struggle for freedom must have feasted on him physically, as it is the case with a majority of the Nuba people who have been subjected to depend their physical and cultural existence under very trying circumstances, the camp manager might be actually younger than his age; he looked about fifty something.  It was impossible to hear what he says not because of heavy accent, the doses of which he did not lack, but his voice was as weak as that of a radio whose batteries are running low. I had to change my seat to be closer. After introduction, we exchanged ideas about how to help in the areas of education here in the camp as well as back home in the mountains. Our ideas converged around the training of teachers for primary and secondary schools.

 

The education coordinator asked the camp manager if he knew of a place to keep me for the two days I will be here for. The camp manager suggested to check with some NGO’s compound to which we drove to. The education coordinator, who just came from Kauda, deposited a request for hosting a guest on his behalf. The watchman told us to wait while he takes the request to those in charge at the compound. A young man dressed in a short and a shirt emerged from the gate with arrogance written all over his face. He did not return the smiles generously given him by Mangati and his friend, Yusif, an engineer working in the camp.  Speaking with arrogance not of a helper and instead of simply saying no, Conrad went straight and lectured my friends on their wrongs. ‘You do not bring a guest and then request for an accommodation.  Besides, this compound is not a hotel. What is so special about this person; why should we accommodate him of all the 70 k refugees here etc.’ This admonition went on for a while, which made me groaned inside in a rage and my throat felt bitter not because Conrad was wrong in using his rights to reject anyone he so chooses from entering his compound but because of his lack of respect for his friends and the general disregard of people he is supposedly here to help. Adding to this discomfort, Conrad spewed out all that he could perhaps to make sure this was Mangati’s and Yusif’s last visit to him under the circumstances as in question, and then he walked off, leaving us standing. We shook our heads and took off and went to Yusif’s hut without saying much back to Conrad because he gave us little opportunity to do so.

 

It was a wrong idea to try and cage myself inside a compound. Staying with refugees in their huts will allow me to taste their pains. It will be interesting to see how I will cope in a camp where every moving object speaks Arabic, the language of which my own hears are as useless as those of a deaf.

 

July 21st  2013

 

I enjoyed sleeping in an open sky surrounded by neighbors with better nourished souls and who are shielded from the ignorance of those who have it all, who are facing a lot of obstacles with immeasurable dignity.

 

In the afternoon,because of travel arrangements, I came back to Conrad to ask him to arrange to airlift me out of Yida. This time we got a chance to learn more about one another and he offered for me to come back to the compound giving the reason – ‘since I now know you’ and then he offered a seat on a plane bringing cargo over. I accepted to use his plane but did not accept to move back to the compound because it would look bad on me as far as the refugee family hosting me was concerned.

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South Sudanese Youth Takes Refuge in Chess

By Daniel Akech | July 15, 2013

It is earlier evening in Juba. My evening walk brought me to a local chess club. I decided to watch the game and intended to participate if given a chance but the bad weather imposed a brief interruption. The wind blew southward in fitful gusts, rattling against the walls of poorly erected buildings; it gathered endless brownish dust on the streets and sprayed us with it. The sky grew darker as it lowered over us. The rain immediately began to patter down. We dashed into a tiny vacated brick-walled and iron-roofed hut, used by this local chess club to store games.

One member of the chess club, who possessed an endless stock of abusive epithets, is a one-star general in the armed forces. Every good move he makes is accompanied by a bad phrase — ‘nhian be ciet thoor’, meaning the opponent is terrified as his testicles shrink to the size of a tiny insect.

Some members just show up not to play but to enjoy hearing fun jokes and nice conversations. In the Christian world, a person cannot live by bread alone. This is true in Juba where many young unemployed citizens have taken refuge in games.

When I first arrived in Juba five months ago I was led to believe that these young men who play dominoes, chess, and cards were a bunch of lazy free-loaders who hate to work. My close interaction with some of them proved me wrong. I went to a coffee shop called Le Bistro near the New Sudan Palace one morning. On my way to the bathroom located outside the building, I bumped into a familiar face – a club member who is known for his quietness, who only speaks when he utters checkmate. He sat outdoors under the protection of a tent with a red folder in front of him and a pen clipped to his shirt’s pocket. I approached him and greeted him and he greeted me back. We played thrice before – I lost the first time and we drew the second round and on a different day I won. I invited him to join me inside. Over coffee we chatted. He told me his story. He graduated from high school in Wau and has applied and got accepted into Rumbek University but the school hasn’t opened for over a year now. He tried to look for a job but his applications has been turned down numerous times and sometimes he does not even hear from the employers. He pointed at the foreign young men serving us coffee and he said such a job as being a server in a restaurant does not require a lot of training and one can learn it on the job but our people rarely bother to look for us. Achien had built a house back in his hometown which he rents out for $80 US dollars a month and this is the money he uses to sustain him while in Juba waiting for the University of Rumbek to open or until he finds a job here in Juba. Sometimes the money from his house is not enough and the chess players come to his rescue not his family members. He told me that South Sudanese love each other and one only hears of tribalism from the upper class of our society.

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It’s Easy to Satisfy the Hunger of the Mind

By Daniel Akech | May 4, 2013

In recent years, the mass of facts concerning the suffering masses from distant or adjacent lands get to us in minutes through mass media. Whether it is because of the increased level of awareness or some other reasons, more and more people commit themselves to humanistic vocations, which brings them face to face with a mass of breathing skeletons living in mud-walled and polythene bags-roofed huts in refugee camps, where children out of no fault of their own are condemned to perpetual physical and mental starvation.

In American university campuses and possibly in other countries, not uncommon is the sight of juniors and seniors organizing events to ‘change the world’ right after graduation. Other organizations outside of campuses, too driven by humanitarian impulses, are committed to this call of duty.

Only a few organizations in this business of ‘saving the world’ from all the evils – illiteracy, hunger, violent conflict, unclean water, etc have recognized that such a dream is almost unrealizable. The reasons are many.

Let’s start off by asking a naive first question. Is the charity intended to make the giver feels happy or is it about the beneficiaries? How does one decide? Not by reading the organization’s catchy mission and vision statements because whatever the mission and vision statements of an organization, it is possible to find many organizations failing to fulfill their goals at least as judged by the intended beneficiaries.

 

The failure of an organization to attain the goal often results when it denies itself the freedom to adapt to circumstances. The failure to adapt to realities on the grounds is the sure way of deciding on the first question we asked earlier.

An organization may have the right to decide how to help but it must carry out a thorough research of the operation zone. It is likely that previous humanitarian workers might have operated in the zone or in a nearby one and might have failed and withdrew back. There is no reason anyone repeating a failed experiment should expect a completely different result. In Juba South Sudan there are over 80 international organizations on humanistic vocations. Some have erected new buildings for clinics and schools in the villages. Today’s article on the Economist.com explains the hopelessness of investing in still buildings as opposed to walking buildings:

“New blue and white school buildings and a vocational training centre have risen amid tilled fields. Yet such progress amounts to less than it seems, says Charles Sebit, the local priest. Villagers are too poor to buy fuel for the generator powering the water pump when bad weather thwarts solar power. Nor can they afford the school fees from which teachers’ salaries are paid. In any case, the mostly illiterate parents prefer to send their children to the fields or marry them off, hoping for a dowry paid in cattle. Many classrooms are never used.”[1]

In the author’s village, the construction of a school began in 2007 and up to now there is no secondary school operating in it. There are so many instances pointing against erecting buildings without means for operating them and yet local South Sudanese abroad continue to come home with foreigners on humanitarian vocations to change their country by erecting buildings in what amounts to merely ‘importing the sceneries of the developed countries here’ forgetting that, it is not the building of stones that matter for these people, what matters is the creation of a building that walks this is attainable at a low cost. When you invest your money to educate just one person you are automatically guaranteed of one thing: her life will never be the same. Rather than striving to change the world, it is much more practical to strive to change the life of one refugee child suffering from hunger of mind. I believe that education has the power to change a person.



[1] http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21577074-worlds-youngest-country-struggles-build-decent-government-and-society

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Adapting Sudanese Man to His Age

By Daniel Akech | January 29, 2013

The plane landed in Juba. Although every object at the airport is encrusted in brown dust, the airport’s infrastructure has shown some improvements [more building structures have been added]. The lines for custom controls have shrunk, which means that the number of visitors has reduced. Perhaps the strong odor from the airport’s missionary era toilets repels visitors! Speaking of first impressions, such an image makes everything else stink in that city because fishy smells live longer in our conscience. It doesn’t cost much to rid the airport of this mess but there are other messes, which are much more pressing and one of such pressing concerns is the lack of oil’s revenues – when the oil does not flow everything else remains static.

Columns of smokes, poking the limpid sky, hanged over Juba. The ashes carried to the sky by the smoke rained down on Juba adding more dust to already dust-shocked atmosphere. The smokes originated miles away from Juba – from a world entirely unaffected by the current economic crises induced by the oil raw between the two Sudans. Such is a world of cattle keepers who traveled hundreds of miles away from their ancestral land in search for better pastures. Cattle keepers start fires as a way for improving grazing fields.

This morning a young boy [he looked about 12 but he considered himself a man] came to the house where I stayed from a cattle camp located three days away footing from Juba. His lower teeth are pulled out. White as fresh milk, his upper teeth are beautifully arranged. With beautiful teeth and a baby’s face, he smiled away the poverty of his travel arrangement.  This boy trekked in the forest alone with no money in his pocket, no cell phone, he did not know any address in Juba [he was told of two or three relatives of his who live in Juba but he did not know them nor where they reside]. Juba is only an intermediate stop in his journey to his ancestral home. He is heading home to collect more cows, recently acquired by his family through her sister’s marriage, to bring to his cattle hearth – he will drive cows in the jungle amidst growing fears sowed by armed cattle raiders who have planted themselves in the virgin jungles of this nascent nation. For his dress, he had on a jalabiya and he trampled the earth with tough sandals made of a car’s tire. He carried a stick and a twigg for brushing his teeth. He dragged a lot of problems on his heels but he did not even think about any of them: getting lost, hunger, you name them. He is no your ordinary boy; his reasoning pattern is interesting. He shrugged off all his fears induced by his poor travel plan with lines such as: the only way to go without food for three days and do not die is to not think of hunger — if you do not think of hunger then you are not acknowledging its existence and then you wouldn’t die of it because it doesn’t exist! It is a survival of the strong-willed in the jungles.

At first his hosts [learned and semi-learned] began to lecture him about the importance of education. He counter-lectured his hosts about the importance of the life life itself has chosen him for – to protect, care, or sacrifice himself for his animals as his means for fighting for that better future. He spoke at greater length of the beauty of life in cattle camp. When we asked him why he did not sell one cow to pay for his trip. He smiled at us [we are ignorant fools] and said that he tried to do so but each one of the cows he wanted to sell was too beautiful to be sold for money. These precious animals can only be given up when one gets married.

This boy is not easy to convince to enroll in school. After pressing him hard on this matter, he knew how to shut me down: if you find me someone to look after my cows, I will give your idea of going to school a second thought. It is absurd to think that this boy should give up his cows and goes off to school. Such a thought is fruitless because cows have high economic value [a citizen with 50 cows does not need any help from the government other than perhaps the protection of his animals]. It would be nice if this boy could keep contact with his cows while acquiring education. It is hard to convince ignorant [or uneducated] people to accept to give up what they have in exchange for that great thing whose benefits will be ripped in the future. It is relatively rare to bump into a family that happily sells healthy and productive cows to pay for school fees of it children. A good boarding high school in Kenya can cost per year upto three healthy cows. Since the parents, who though possess numerous cows, rarely contribute to the education of their children [our fellow citizens], the educated ought to do something. A country cannot leave to foreign hands the important task of educating her citizens. Programs that offer scholarships cannot educate the whole country. The country ought to look into other ways. It is a grossteque error to believe that a learning environment ought to be surrounded by coffee shops or that learning ought to take place in very expensive buildings. There is nothing wrong with taking citizens to school but our country has more citizens who can only be educated if a school is taken to them rather than them being taken to a school. One does take a school to a people not by building an expensive school but by opening a mobile school in the open sky at a cattle camp or fish camp! The cattle keepers and fishermen will secure education in their own environment. If the goal of education is to adapt a human to her times, then an education carried out in such an environment will be the most practical education. There is a danger in implementing such a scheme: insecurity. Cattle camps are susceptible to attacks from cattle raiders. But in any war [if it is a real one] death is an acceptible possibility. The struggle against illiteracy is no less than a serious war of liberation from any other form of oppression. A change cannot be obtained by those who don’t want to die. A team of committed citizens equipped with education and patriotic hearts can start to implement mobile education in the least education-friendly environments such as cattle and fish camps. If such a thing proves useful and practical then the government will be forced to provide extra protection.

A tremendous task faces South Sudan: to adapt all her citizens to the age in which they live, which requires shaping the minds of youth. In order to achieve progress in this direction one would have to change the present circumstances of life in the country and one sure way of doing so is through education but one needs to be already armed with good education to see that such a change is needed. In order to see the importance of education one has to be already educated! In a country where literacy rate is far too low, a few will have to do so much.

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Announcement

By Daniel Akech | December 22, 2012

  1. If your name has appeared as a winner of the Sudan Scholarship Test last time and you haven’t provided your documents yet to our office, please call either of the following numbers immediately: Bol Agoot: 0712609471; Chol Thiong: 0728661325. 
  2. You will not be allowed to change your school on your own [you must provide all photocopies — KCPE result slip, all the copies of report cards for previous terms sat for  including the recent 3rd term for the year 2012.
  3. If we haven’t received your documents within a week, then you will automatically lose your present status as a short-listed student for this scholarship.

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