From South Sudan to the U of R

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2036
John Loeppky

One WUSC student’s story

By Monyror Bior

Across the world today, life is not favouring all people. Some of the world’s inhabitants are being faced by numerous influences. Today’s world is ill-disposed because of the created or natural upheavals.

Canadian people don’t hesitate to intervene in helping those groups of people who are traumatized by the above-mentioned disasters. Their humanitarian hearts do not go unnoticed by people who know what it’s to be in need.

As an immigrant from the affected war zone in South Sudan, I feel the urge to express my gratitude to the Canadian students who have given some part of their efforts to lift me from the deep pit of poverty, trauma and the suffering I have been through. I would like to tell the University of Regina students my education journey of hope which might have some inspiration to some Canadian youth. As per now, I attend classrooms with modern technology and better resources. But that was not how my education started.

I started my elementary schooling in a remote village in Jonglei State, South Sudan in 2003 at the age of 10.  The first time I went to school was when my father sent me to go and look for our goat that had gotten lost the previous day. Instead of going to look for the goat, I was influenced by some of my peers who were allowed by their fathers to be in school, but dad didn’t allow me. He made his decision because it was his sole responsibility to teach me as his first-born male child, as stipulated in our cultural norms. The first-born male child was to take care of the family property and his parents when they reach their old age. I arrived at school that morning and everything was new to me. I was not wearing any pieces of clothing. In fact, I was not the only one dressing in God’s dress. Virtually all the children were like me except few, who either possessed a pair of shorts or a t-shirt and barely anyone was wearing sandals or shoes. I went to the class and the teacher entered, all the children stood up and started to sing songs (in English) I didn’t even comprehend a single word. After singing, the children sat, and the teacher started the lesson. He was teaching numeracy and he clearly wrote numbers from 1 to 20 which seemed like decorations to me because I had never seen them. He then read them to the learners, and they read after him. While in the class my brain was in its own world because I was thinking how my dad would react if he found out that I was in school instead of looking for the goat.

Lunchtime came and the children could go back to their homes. I was completely in a confused state. No goat to bring back home and nothing interesting gained in the school. Due to the certainty that if my dad gets the news that I was in school instead of searching for the goat, he will surely punish me, I started crying even without someone inflicting physical pain. I went to the nearby village to look for the goat after leaving school.

Unfortunately, my neighbour’s son who went to school together with me in the morning, went home before me and my father asked him if he had seen me anywhere. He said I was in school with him. I arrived home at 6:00 pm pretending to be very tired from walking the whole day looking for the goat. Without even spending any time dad called, and I knew there was danger ahead.

I rushed quickly and stood before him. He cleared his throat and asked, “Where were you the whole day?” I was in dilemma either to say the truth or to lie. I decided to tell him the truth that I was in school, but that answer didn’t cure the imminent punishment I was going to receive. He cleared his throat again, “hur, hur, hur, you must bring that goat right now.” Just imagine: it was already night, how could I find something in darkness? He did it to fuel his anger.  I stood there helplessly, he picked a stick he had already prepared and seeing that, I started running away as the only alternative I could do but in vain. He just caught me within seconds. He beat me hard. The following morning, I woke up very early to go and search for the goat and eventually got it at noon hours from the nearby village.

That beating didn’t jeopardize my desire to be in school and learn like my age mate. Dad eventually gave up and allowed me to go to school as long I came back home early to help him bring back the cattle to their yard. I think he got some advice somewhere because I didn’t have time to ask him after all because he died in 2009 before I finished my education. I wish he was there to taste my struggle and the sweetness of education.  I didn’t know it at the time, but now I think what gave me strength to violate dad’s authority was the Canadian “spirit” which guided me throughout my life and eventually led me up to here.

In late 2005, our village was invaded by a neighbouring tribe who raided all our cattle and killed many people across the villages. That picture will always remain printed in my brain though it has no effect now. We fled to the main town where we sought refuge. A year later my cousin who left the village in 1980s as a child soldier came from Kenya to visit his parents and found us already displaced from our village. He informed my father and my uncle that he was taking me and his brother who is my age mate with him to Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, where we would access better education compared to what is offered in Sudan. We left for Kakuma on 30 December, 2006 and I was so exultant hoping for the best in life and seeing a new environment which people in our locality termed as “up”. This is because people who come from that part of East Africa were termed as civilized and educated. In Kakuma refugee camp the expectations I had were not all met, but it was not like Sudan which possessed huge issues especially lack of social services and ideal security. Kakuma had the following encounters; there was inadequate clean water, food and harsh climate characterized by windy and hot temperature. Though security was better but there were some forms of harassments from Kenyan authorities.

I embarked on my education like someone who has a thirst of three days. I went through my elementary education with high expectations which I exceeded in 2010. The grades I obtained from grade eight motivated Jesuit Refugee service (JRS) a non-profit organization which was offering secondary education to refugee students out of the camp. JRS sponsored me until my grade twelve which ended in 2014.

In December 2014, I went back to South Sudan, but I didn’t find my family members as they had fled the country after the conflict erupted on 15 of December, 2013. I tried to establish myself by looking for a job but in vain. I decided to follow my family members to Uganda, the neighbouring country which is hosting most South Sudanese refugees. I reunited with them and this is the place where my hope rejuvenated again after months of frustration in South Sudan. I fully involved myself in the community as a volunteer with other UN-implementing agencies where I also linked up with community school as volunteer teacher for one year. After seeing my commitment, an organization called Windle International awarded me a scholarship to study as a professional teacher for two years. (2016-2017). After completion, they employed me as a classroom teacher, and I could give my time and effort.

The Canadian spirit of kind, humble and committed Canadian students’ hearts reached Uganda in November 2018 through World University Service Canada (WUSC) to which I applied, and I was successful with the interviews and finally knew my days as a nationless citizen would come to an end. Their concern for humanity, for the needy and youth who desperately need higher education has brought me to study in one of the greatest universities (University of Regina) the Queen’s city of Saskatchewan. This opportunity to me was an unexpected dream because in Ugandan’s refugee camps, there were no countries taking refugees for re-settlement or sponsorship. I believe in my ability and I will continue with my education at higher level so that I can secure better job in future which will propel me to bring up my future family and my extended family members who really need my help as the head of the family according to our societal norms and values.

Honestly the joy I have, made me even lack good terminologies to express my gratefulness to you, but the following few words can describe you; you are humble, kind, trustworthy and well trained by your forefathers who envisioned the future of the next generations. Thank you very, very much for making me a worthy person because a person with little education contributed less to the society and if educated becomes an important asset to the community and the nation. My message to you is that continue with the same spirit of generosity inculcated in you by your parents and forefathers. You took the initiative initiated by your parents boldly and denied yourself time for leisure to sponsor us to taste the greatness of your country. Canada as a modest and concerned nation about the wellbeing of others has done her best to to make people who are persecuted because of their religions or ethnicity feel at home. It’s upon us now, the immigrants, to give Canadian authorities ample time to carry out their duties without hassle.

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