Southern Sudan: Vincent’s struggle for education
15 October 2009

Police officers during an adult literacy lesson in Nimule. Only 20% of the population in Southern Sudan are literate. (Angela Hellmuth/JRS)
Life in Kakuma was challenging. There were continuous conflicts with the local Turkana population who did not like the refugees because they lived in a camp set up on their land and were using their meager resources.
Nimule, 15 October 2009 – “I am proud to inform you that I have successfully completed my studies and I wish to express my sincere gratitude to JRS who has tremendously supported me in my struggle for education.” 

These were the words JRS recently received in a letter sent by Vincent, a former refugee, from Southern Sudan. Vincent is 31 years and has just obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in education at the Kampala International University. During a visit to our office, he shared his story:  

”I was born in 1978 in Jonglei State, Southern Sudan and had to flee to Ethiopia when I was nine. After three years in exile I returned to Kapoeta in Southern Sudan. But in early 1992, I had to flee again, this time to Kakuma, Kenya where I stayed with relatives for three years. 

Life in Kakuma refugee camp

Life in Kakuma was challenging. There were continuous conflicts with the local Turkana population who did not like the refugees because they lived in a camp set up on their land and were using their meager resources. 

Although the Kenyan government tried to provide as much security as possible they sometimes attacked our settlement and looted our belongings. I also remember that it was difficult to get used to the tremendous heat. But in spite of all these challenges I managed to continue my primary education while staying in Kakuma.

When fleeing Sudan, I had been separated from my parents and four siblings who sought refuge in one of the internally displaced persons’ camps in Southern Sudan. 

Then my father was killed when the Sudan Armed Forces bombarded Bor. In order to look after me, my uncle, an Anglican Reverend, asked me to move to Gulu, northern Uganda where he had sought refuge. 

Under threat by the LRA

He was already taking care of nine other orphans. Refugees were received well in Gulu, the local Christians even shared their land with us which enabled us to settle. 

However, the biggest challenge was the constant threat of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) who attacked the area, looted property, abducted children and burnt houses, forcing us children to seek refuge in the local church at night. 

One night, they abducted the head teacher of the Gulu primary school and ten children from our neighbourhood. But I was able to complete my primary education in 1996 and was admitted to secondary school. Six years later, I completed my A-levels.

Saving for higher education

In 2003 I moved back to Nimule, Southern Sudan where I started working as an English teacher at a secondary school. I took part in training programmes organised by JRS to build the capacity of the teachers and improve the quality of teaching. 

JRS also engaged me as an adult literacy teacher for English. What I saved from my incentive later enabled me to pay part of my fees at university. 

In 2006, I gained a scholarship from JRS which paid for 50 percent of the tuition and accommodation costs. It enabled me to take up studies for a Bachelors degree in education at Kampala International University which I completed this year.

I now look forward to returning to Southern Sudan where I want to continue teaching and support my community in all efforts related to education. I will also take care of my mother and four siblings.”