How South Sudan refugees emerged top in UACE results
What you need to know:
- The students took advantage of a scholarship programme, shelved their troubled backgrounds and worked hard to emerge among the best.
Jackson Mandela, one of the stars of the just-released Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education results, bites the lid of a pen during a WhatsApp video call as he explains how he struggled to beat the odds to acquire formal education in Uganda.
At 15 years, Mandela, the eldest of the two children of his parents, whose origin in Morobo County, Southwest of the Central Equatorial state in South Sudan, arrived in Uganda towards the end of 2017 with a group of relatives when they fled the civil war in their country.
Despite the civil war giving him a big blow, Mandela was yet to heal from the mental scars created by the divorce between his parents before the war forced them to flee to Uganda.
“My parents separated several months before we fled, but while we fled to Uganda, the war did not unite them, I lost touch with both of them because my dad got another wife and fled to DR Congo while my mum got another man and fled to Uganda, but I have tried in vain to trace her,” he says.
“Three months later when I discovered the fate of my parents and where they fled, that became the defining moment to seek a meaningful future in Uganda even when we gambled to survive in a hostile Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement,’’ he adds.
From Morobo, Mandela says, he came to Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement and enrolled to study at a local school in Koboko District.
While navigating the tough environment at Rhino Camp to make ends meet, his grandmother grew vegetables to support him.
“On the plots we got, my grandmother grew vegetables and sold them to raise the money I needed to buy learning tools until I sat S4 in Koboko, but the story changed when I passed, whatever money she could raise could not even settle requirements, but luck came my way,” he said.
Just after resorting to brick-making to survive, he was approached by one of the settlement’s leaders who asked him to apply for a scholarship with the Leadership Academy of South Sudan in Nimule, near the Ugandan border.
At the school, he says, his cohort was only offered a half scholarship (paid only our tuition and hostel fee).
“That meant my grandmother needed to do more while I also supported her. I would come to Nimule on foot and foot back during holidays when there was no transport,” he says.
At the Nimule Academy, they taught them the Ugandan syllabus. That even made it complex for Mandela.
They were later moved to Restore Leadership High School in Amuru District from where they sat for their UACE examinations. Their school at Nimule did not have a centre number.
“Even while sitting the exams, my heart and mind remained shattered due to my parent’s divorce, but the obedience to my teachers and the good relationship I had with them, helped me to sail through,” he says.
His hard work only paid off last Friday when the results returned and he had scored 20 points in HED/CST subject combination. He now wants to pursue a business course.
Kennedy Ladu, another refugee, who had offered a similar subject combination, also scored 20 points and he wants to become a lawyer.
In an interview, Ladu told the Daily Monitor that seeing the pride in children from well-to-do families at school challenged him to stardom at Restore Leadership High School.
“I am a refugee and I come from a poor family background so it hurt me to see those students from rich families whose parents drove in vehicles to come to visit them and the attitude they had against us, that always kept reminding and motivating me, so I would leave friends and go and read,” he says.
According to Ladu, it was a struggle to resume formal education in Uganda after fleeing the civil war in South Sudan into Uganda six years ago.
“My siblings and I always woke up early to make sure that something would come from us. We had in our minds to work hard and change the family because our parents were in Juba and we were living at Rhino Camp Settlement Camp alone,” he said.
Ladu attributes his success in the examinations to hard work and perseverance.
“It was very hard in the camp. We did not have food to eat, especially during holidays. It was tough and I could study on an empty stomach,” he says.
While at school, Ladu said he always challenged his teachers to share with him examination papers from other schools to test himself.
Another refugee, who performed well in the just-released UACE, was Stella Eunice John.
She sat at Restore Leadership High School and scored 20 points.
“Fleeing to Uganda meant a defeat to me and the defeat became a reason to push myself even further, once they allowed us to study in Ugandan schools, it was the beginning of my hope in education,” she said.
Stella says once she got an opportunity for a scholarship at the Leadership Academy of South Sudan, she knew that it was up to her to make it a turning point in life.
“They taught us the Ugandan syllabus and they encouraged us that we would sit the Ugandan examinations and that the best performers would be supported, I then took it for my only opportunity,” she said.
She adds that she wants to become a medical doctor in the future so that she can solve the problem of inadequate professionals in the healthcare system.
According to Friday’s UACE results, Restore Leadership High School’s performance places them among the 11 schools across the country that scored at least five students in 20 points.
Of the 96,557 candidates who sat the 2022 UACE, 40,219 were females and 56,023 were males.
The results showed that the percentage of passes at the upper level of 3 and 2 principal passes are higher while the percentage of passes at the lower level and failure rate among girls are lower than boys.
Mr Joseph Tugume, an administrator at Restore Leadership, says molding the students to succeed was a combination of vigorous class work, workshopping with other schools, and revision.