Sudanese Refugee Launches Unique Scholarship Initiative
Volume 1, Issue 3 / February 2009
Garang Beer is giving back to Sudanese refugee youth in Kakuma Camp through an innovative scholarship program
Garang Beer was a Sudanese refugee in Kakuma Camp from 1992 to 2001. Now he is studying linguistics and business administration at Bentley College in Massachusetts, U.S.A., and is bringing educational opportunity to a new generation of refugee youth.
“Being a beneficiary of scholarships, I should sponsor some children in order to fulfill my dream,” says Garang.
Garang was a beneficiary of a Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) scholarship after a hard struggle in his final year of primary school. He obtained high marks on the 1999 Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education exam and was ranked among the best pupils in the camp. Through his excellent performance, he was able to attend Lodwar Boy’s High School with support from a JRS scholarship.
But before he could complete his last year of secondary school, he was offered resettlement to the U.S.A. In 2001, Garang escaped refugee life and arrived on American soil. He was resettled through a special program for Sudanese young men who had left Sudan in 1987 for Ethiopia.
In the U.S., he completed high school and went on to further his education at Bentley University in Massachusetts, where he is majoring in linguistics and public administration.
Drawing inspiration from his own experience as a refugee, Garang developed a vision was to sponsor Sudanese refugee boys and girls in Kakuma Camp. He collaborated with a fellow student at Bentley, Andrew Golkar, and together they founded a scholarship program funded through a Bentley University grant.
“The objectives of this scholarship are to make young Sudanese professors or adademicians,” says Mr. Garang.
In December 2008, Mr. Garang returned to visit Kakuma Camp and launch the first year of his scholarship program. The program sponsors secondary education for girls and boys who attained passing marks of 300 and 350 (respectively) on their KCPE exams.
The boys were taken to Lodwar Boy’s High School and the girls to Turkana Girls Provisional Boarding School. Both schools represent the best government secondary schools in Turkana District. Upon acceptance into the scholarship program, participants are given a digital camera and “Bentley” t-shirts.
James Dot is the father of Agau, a Sudanese refugee student who was selected for Garang’s scholarship program this year and is now studying at Lodwar Boy’s High School. James believes that the program fills a critical gap in educational opportunities for refugee youth: “The programme aims to sponsor disadvantaged children who don’t have a chance in Kakuma Refugee Camp. My child never got a chance in form one in Kakuma Camp due to the policy of UNHCR.” Sudanese students are not allowed to enroll in form one of camp secondary schools due to a UNHCR policy based on the Tripartite Agreement of 2005.
So far, Garang’s grant program has sponsored six students-three boys and three girls-in its first year of operation. Based on the students’ performance at secondary school, Garang hopes to sponsor students through to a university education.