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

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month 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.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid