Kids In Camps – Uganda – Update
Report written by Sumy Sadumi – May 2017:
I was greeted by around 9 shy smiles when I reached Joseph’s home in Ayilo II settlement, in Northern Uganda. Out of the 13 (and counting!) children that Joseph has fathered, six are being sponsored by Aletheia Foundation. The family fled a brutal civil war back in 2014 and has now settled in one of the many settlements in Adjumani district.
Three girls and three boys are now happily pursuing a full education, and are proud to tell me they are doing great in school. Joseph is a lucky father: the three boys all want to be doctors and the three girls are interested in engineering, maths and accounting. We laugh as I joke that this family will soon be building an empire!
Scovia, 20, Immaculate, 18, and Jaqueline, 16, are all in secondary years at St Mary’s Assumpta School, outside of the settlement. During school terms, they stay in the dormitories and come back home for holidays, which is when I paid the visit. They proudly show me their room at home which they all share, and take out the school materials that have been provided by Aletheia: mathematical sets, calculators and old report cards. Immaculate loves posing for the camera, and the more they warm up the more sass they give out- these three young women have a bright future ahead, and they are grateful for it.
The boys are cheeky: Josh and Joel are in the same class in Ayilo II Primary school, located inside the settlement. They are often seen together both in class and recess, it seems they are very close. Though they are both 10, they share different mothers. In the Great Lakes region, it is customary for men to have many children with different wives – hence the big number of 12 kids currently in the settlement. While they all share Joseph as a father, the current wife has only mothered a few but will happily look after the other children.
Colin’s happy to be home, as his school is a few hours away, in Moyo district. Like his sisters, the 14-year-old stays there during school term. He is an exceptionally bright young boy – his grades are all excellent and you can see only good comments from the teacher!
A few hours away from Ayilo, we find John Mabiar, 17, in Nyumanzi settlement, who is now seventeen years old. He’s been in Uganda since 2015 and came here with his mother and siblings. Three more siblings who are also sponsored by Aletheia Foundation, have had to return to South Sudan because food rations in the settlement are not enough for the whole family. Two of them are in Juba staying with a cousin, while the other one has gone back to Bor village where there is fighting going, but at least there is some food. They hope to return.
John’s mother just got back from a trip to South Sudan a week and a half ago, which means John was left on his own to look after their home and their crops. She came with a sick toddler, so John gave her some of the money originally given to him for his uniform so that she could afford medicine. The toddler has recovered now.
As we sit inside their banda (hut), John proudly shows me his grades: he is also excelling at school, located inside the settlement. He wants to be a doctor when he grows up due to the things he has seen: he wants to be able to treat and help people. Not surprisingly, science, social studies and maths are his forte. He was reserved at first, but quickly warmed up and loved taking pictures – he has an amazingly genuine smile.
As everyone’s home for holidays and schools have closed, it wasn’t possible to visit teachers and talk to them- but it’s clear by the report cards I’ve seen and the enthusiasm every kid has shown for school that they’re doing well, and will continue to do so.
Though we were all laughing by the end of my visit, it’s clear that the past is still with them and they’re aware of the struggles ahead. Food rations continue to be cut due to the massive influx of refugees crossing the border into Uganda daily, and a prolonged drought means that crops haven’t been as fruitful as they should be by now. However, I left there inspired to see such perseverance by a generation scarred from needless fighting- after all, they are the future of their country, and all they want is to heal it.