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

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More