News / Africa

    South Sudanese Scholar Returns Home

    George Washington graduate Makwei Deng speaking to students and supporters. (William Atkins/The George Washington University)George Washington graduate Makwei Deng speaking to students and supporters. (William Atkins/The George Washington University)
    x
    George Washington graduate Makwei Deng speaking to students and supporters. (William Atkins/The George Washington University)
    George Washington graduate Makwei Deng speaking to students and supporters. (William Atkins/The George Washington University)
    Kelly J. Kelly
    Sitting in a friend’s cluttered university office and drinking a cup of instant coffee, Makwei Deng insisted he has not been in the United States for a full four years.

    “Thirteen days before it becomes four years," he said, laughing.

    During the time he has been in the United States, Deng has earned a college degree in economics and philosophy at George Washington University (GW) in Washington, DC. That course of study was not exactly what Deng had in mind when he applied for a Banaa ("to build or to create" in Arabic) scholarship from the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.

    "I thought I was coming to law school," Deng said. He explained that students at the Kakuma refugee camp follow the British education system, in which students pursue professional degrees immediately following high school.

    But once in the United States, Deng said that he was told he had to get an undergraduate degree in "four good years."

    He added, "It’s still my goal, if possible, I still want to go to law school.”

    While at GW, Deng also started a blog about South Sudan. He said people at the embassy and in NGOs around town know him because of his blog – especially because of an article he wrote about what he called “the top 13 corrupt government officials in South Sudan.”

    Deng said he is not afraid to speak up in part because he wants to start having a voice even now, when he is only in his mid-twenties. His inspiration, he said, was the young people who arranged the money and support for him to study in the United States in the first place.

    Deng said, “When I came I thought that I was going to meet these rich, older, wiser people with pot bellies. But when I met them at the airport they were wearing shorts, funny t-shirts, and they were young, some were even younger than me. But already this is what they’ve done.”

    Since that day, a lot has changed for those young people, too.
     
    Evan Faber, a co-founder and acting director of Banaa who is also in his mid-twenties, said that in the last three years, the group has brought two other students – one from Sudan's Darfur region and one from the Nuba Mountains – to study at other U.S. universities.

    “What we wanted to accomplish was to have a student come here and be able to share with us their experience[s] and share their perspective[s] and be able to use the opportunities you have here in the United States, at GW, the University of Rochester, universities here in the U.S., make really good contacts, and bring those contacts back home," Faber said.

    As the first Banaa scholar, Makwei Deng is now fulfilling the second part of Banaa’s vision by returning to South Sudan — a country that didn’t exist when Deng came to the United States.

    “When I came here it was very confusing because this was a new country [to me]. People were strange, the culture was strange. Everything was unreal. It will appear I’ll be experiencing the same thing when I’m back in Juba," he said.

    Deng isn’t even sure yet who is meeting his plane in Juba, or where he’s going to live. But he said he would like to start making a difference in his country as soon as possible.

    “I am seeing myself as part of that generation that took over from people that were fighting using guns, and now [we are] fighting using ideas, using development, using peace to bring about a new, better country.”

    When Evan Faber heard Deng say that, he beamed.

    “Makwei’s perspective is what we were hoping would be the result of the Banaa Scholarship," Faber said. "I couldn’t be prouder of him.”

    Then, both wearing suits that were much too big for them, Faber and Deng move to an upstairs reception hall at GW for one last celebration before Deng begins his next journey — a journey home.
     
    South Sudanese Scholar Returns Home
    South Sudanese Scholar Returns Homei
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    You May Like

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora