Maker’s Story, Uganda
The year was 2002 and I had just finished my primary school exams and had done 4 months in the first secondary class. When war broke out in Sudan, I decided to leave my parents in Rumbek and go to Uganda on my own. I was just 16 years old. 14 of us set off from Rumbek. We hitch hiked with lorry drivers to the border. Then we crossed the border into Uganda on foot and paid a pick-up driver who took us to Arua where I joined Sudanese refugees who were waiting for resettlement to Australia.
When they departed, I was left with other boys without a caregiver. I joined a secondary school in Kiryadongo in 2003 where my parents sent school fees from time to time. Luckily enough, in mid-2005, 15 refugee boys and I were sent to Molly and Paul High School in Kampala by Apostle Deon Dennis, who provided us with food and schooling in Kampala. She spoke to the school administration who allowed us to pay subsidized fees. We faced a lot of discrimination from Ugandan students as urban refugees, especially because we were exempted from paying full school fees.
The most difficult challenge was when refugee status determination was conducted and some of us didn’t have documents. The refugee status determination (RSD) process was conducted in Kampala but some of us could not afford the fare to Kampala. The school insisted that one had to have the refugee ID card so that we could qualify for the subsidized school fees so I was sent away from school for two weeks.
Apostle Deon gave us some money and my cousin and I went to UNHCR in Kampala where we were issued with Refugee ID cards. This opened many doors for me as far as education was concerned. In 2005, I got a high school refugee scholarship from a former Ugandan AU Ambassador, Mr Benon Biraaro.
I achieved good grades which gave me the opportunity to attend Uganda Christian University. With my refugee ID card and a letter addressed to the Dean of Student Affairs by the Office of the Ugandan Prime Minister, the University allowed me to pay tuition fees like Ugandan Nationals unlike other international students. I graduated on the 6th of July 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Development Studies. I am proud to be working for UNHCR today, because I can relate to refugees.
Text by Maker Deng Nyang, UNHCR Protection Associate – Field Office, Rumbek South Sudan/2014