A dream Delayed for Over 30 Years: My Improbable Road to a Bachelor’s Degree

Posted: October 17, 2016 by PaanLuel Wël in Commentary, Contributing Writers, Education, Featured Articles, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

‘‘It always seems impossible until it’s done” By Nelson Mandela

By Ador Thon-Maketh Ador, Nairobi, Kenya

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October 17, 2016 (SSB) — It was until I was issued a letter of completion bearing the date of our graduation ceremony, that I got relieved of the worries as to when I shall finish my University education.  But the day quickly came and I realized it was true when my name was loudly called to the podium among other colleagues.   I stood and walked majestically to the graduation square to receive my Bachelor’s Degree in Peace and Conflict studies.  Before I proceeded to the podium, I first turned to the mammoth crowd to have a look at my wives, children, relatives and friends who came early that morning to witness my academic success. I saw them standing in jubilant mood with their faces covered with smiles and excitement.

When I returned from the podium after I was crowned by our Vice Chancellor, I could not see clearly, the tears of joy blurred my eyesight. Before I took my seat, I began taking deep breath and starred unto the blue-sky to appreciate the Almighty God, who kept me fit like fiddle throughout the years in school.  I knew without the grace of God and the abundant love of my siblings, friends and honorable country men and women, I won’t have made it alone. In order to avoid an emotional meltdown, I clenched my fist in remembrance of the many efforts; both material and non-material resources which enabled me to earn this noble academic degree from St. Paul University in Limuru, Nairobi Kenya.

While silently seated and with all the emotions in my mind competing for attention, I saluted my deceased father, Thon Ador Ader, nicknamed Thon Maketh, in absentia.   I really felt proud that I had fulfilled my dream and the vision of my father who sent me to primary school at the age of six (6) in 1975. My Father was so thirsty for me to obtain a formal education. Even though I graduated 46 years later, the time doesn’t really matter, what is important was that I had put on the gown as a full university graduate. I would have completed my course long ago, but circumstances beyond my control made me delay.

As a devoted Christian I believed everything happened for a reason. The challenges I faced were many. They include among others: civil war, financial constraint, cattle keeping, lack of schools due to armed conflicts, anti-education cultural practices, and family responsibility.

Despite the many obstacles which I encountered, I did manage to overcome such resistance walls. There is a proverb that says, ‘‘when a man falls down, his strengths are not measured by how long he spends on the ground but how quickly he raises up”.   In my studies over the last four years, I did not only sweat and have heartbeats in this marathon, but I had also fell down and rose up again and again. Despite how rough and long those roads were, I never wished to have quitted this race until I had a victorious finish, which was concluded last week in Limuru, Kenya.

This academic journey has taken me 41 years of pursuit.  It first started at Sowera Bender Primary School, in Malakal town, in 1975. My father and I were not aware it would take me this long. It was a challenging journey but which I greatly admired. We learn in school that educated people are often open to challenges, and they take it as a helpful practice in a long road to success.

 When I first enrolled at Sowera Bender Primary school (1975 to 1977) before moving to Duk (my home town) in (1978 – 1980), we were taught in Arabic language during those six years of primary education period. After completion of standard six, I later sat for basic primary school examination in1980, in Pawel (also known as Madersa Kongor in Arabic, those days).  I was able to pass this examination and was promoted to intermediate school, which concluded in 1983.

Some of my colleagues who took this journey with me included, but not limited to: James Reng Deng, Aleer Deng-Marial, Aguer Bior Kuir, Jacob Maduk Tour, Makuol Ajang zing, Petro Maduk Deng, Late Bair Atem-Malik, John Biliu Chuol, Aleer Kachuol Aleer, Solomon Ajieth Bair, Mayen Nyok Noon, Uncle Dhieu Yuol and many more, when we were first introduced into English class Subject by mwalimu Late: Jairo Bior Ajang Palbai

But before we could proceed to the next level, War broke out between Sudan army forces and the forces of the South Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA).  In the aftermath of that protracted armed conflict, I dropped out of school, just like most other South Sudanese students who devoted their time for liberation of South Sudan to be a country.  While my immediate goal when the school wasn’t possible any more was to join the SPLA, my late elder brother, Deng (Majok) Thon Ador, had to sit down and make a decision. One of us had to join the movement right away and the other had to remain behind and take care of the family.

My elder brother, Deng convinced me and I accepted his plea for him to go to Ethiopia and become an SPLA soldier, while I remained behind to take care of our family, look after our cattle and various tasks relevant to our movement and livelihood at the time. Unfortunately, my brother Deng-Majok who was part of “Katiba Koryom” couldn’t make it back home, as he was killed in combat of Jikau, 1985.

From 1984 to 1991, I was assigned the rearing of our livestock which was the basis of traditional economic livelihood at the time. In the process, I became a very good singer and composed many traditional songs; both solo and joint “arekic” with close relatives and like-minded friends.  I also became a good wrestler.  Back then, both singing and wrestling were greatly admired traditionally as powerful sources of entertainment and knowledge.

When the SPLM/A as a movement split in 1991, I found myself in a new reality, which has nothing to do with traditional singing and wrestling.  For the first months in the bushes of Equatoria and Displaced Camps, I was confused and devastated because I didn’t know how to adjust to my new life.  Having no better option, I started reading books; some of which were beyond my scope and comprehension at the time, but I kept reading and asked better educated people to explain the meaning of some words.

With my little academic education and a few months later, I was chosen a block leader in 1992.  With hard work and dedication knowing my education deficiency, I was promoted to be a storekeeper and logistics officer in Internally Displaced Camps (IDPs) such as; Yondu, Magalatoria and Muglai.  I served in that capacity until 1999, under leadership and tutoring of the late Hon. Philip Chol Biowei, Abraham Jok Aring and A/CDR: Akuei Panchol Deng Akuei.

With my principles of hard work, integrity and humility, the people I served gained trust and confidence in me.  In light of that, I also felt motivated to do more. At one point Late Philip Chol Boiwei encouraged and sent me to go and do some short courses in Gulu + Arua (Uganda), Nimule, and Yei respectively.  Right there, my passion and desire to serve and work for the people increased and reached a point of no return.  I became much interested to serve everybody irrespective of their back ground at every opportunity I got.

After surpassing those crucial stages, my level of experience built on good working relations with my seniors and recognition by my community got broadened.  In the year 2000, I was requested by my Duk community leaders and chiefs to go back home and help train local government officers in our Area. I accepted the duty with high regard because I considered that as recognition for the services I rendered in the places I have served.

From the year 2000 to 2004, I was the trainer of the local government officer and worked gently with officers such as: Andrew Bul Deu, Late Makuac Ding, Atem Moral Biar, David Panchol Aduong, Chol Achiek, Isaac Mamer Ruk, Abraham Mathep Turuk, Joshua Madit Anyang, Deng Akuei, Alier Malet Apat, Raik Deng Raik and Chol Mawut Abot.;

Out of this work, I was elevated to the position of Chief Administrator for greater Payuel Payam, where I worked under the guidance of our former commissioners; Nicodemus Arou Maan, Kezekiah Ruei Puot and Late Michael Majok Ayom. At that time, I was also busy pursuing an online course in public administration with South African education trust, culminating in issuance of advance certificate.

When the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in 2005, I was appointed and seconded to Norwegian Peoples Aid (NPA), where I served diligently in Duk County, Uror, Nyirol and Ayod as relief and emergency program project officer up to the year 2009. At that time, my work description involved project implementation and supervision of relief program across all our areas of greater Jonglei state.

In the year 2010, before South Sudan became independent, the NPA operations stretched to some counties of Upper Nile state (Maiwut, Longichok and Mabaan), I was then sent, partly because of my good command of the native dialect, to help bring relief services to those areas and worked there until the emergency programs project, which was funded by USAID came to an end in 2011.

As the emergency project came to conclusion, I was immediately contracted by Eyat Road and construction project as public relations officer for the entire Jonglei state. In the following year 2012, I was appointed as a member of peace commission representing Duk County by Jonglei state Governor Gen. Kuol Manyang Juuk until the time when the same governor, granted me a study leave in June 2013.

But how did I manage to get here? The steps and the length of time it took is the reason why I am sharing my story, with the hope that it can inspire an African child out there, and especially the kids and adults from my beloved country of South Sudan who are currently struggling to acquire formal education in and out of the country.  I have in more than one occasion questioned my rationale of going back to school in pursuit of a degree, especially at this age and with such loads of responsibilities to shoulder.

Some within my family and rightly so, have deemed the cost of a tertiary education not worth it, given my work experience and the joblessness of college graduate in my country of South Sudan, but I have insisted for three reasons.  First, I want to complete a dream that my late father wanted me to accomplish when he took me to school at the age of six in 1975. I promised to him back then that I will get it done to make him proud someday when the opportunity avails itself.

Secondly, I wanted to be an example to my children, who are currently doing well in their various levels of education.  I intend to let them know that they have no excuse not to complete their studies no matter what comes in their way.  Thirdly, I wanted to prove to myself that I am educationally capable right now as I was back then.  I understood my level of understanding new materials wasn’t as sharp as it used to be, and I mightily struggled during the last four years, but my inner desire and the level of tenacity to have this goal accomplished better than it has ever been.

After a tiresome, long and improbable journey which has resulted in a bachelor’s degree, I must say, even before getting any societal and financial worth of the cost that it is worth it.  I don’t think I will ever reward those who stood behind me financially to get through this journey.  It was through the help of my people, which I will not mention here and the strong values, coupled with my passion for education that I managed to graduate at my age.

Looking back from the time I began this journey and where I am going, I can say I am blessed with strong values which can give someone the strength to deal with challenges throughout his life. Nelson Mandela, once said and I quote, ‘‘it is through education that the daughter and son of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine’’.   It doesn’t really matter what level of education you obtained and how obtained it, what is so important is how you make wise use of that education. I normally advise people to respect those around them because they are your assets, respect them irrespective of their backgrounds, respond to their calls, do what they require you to do if you are able to do so.

In the end, they will award you abundantly in one way or another.  The kinds of services that I have offered have not been in vain. I thank my people of Duk, and the entire Jonglei community and the Former Governors of Jonglei Hon. Kuol Manyang and Hon. John Kong, who without their support and encouragement, this journey would not have been successful.  I owe them great respect.  May the Almighty God bless them abundantly.

Finally, I wish to state that I dedicate this hard earned degree to my three wives’ children. While I was in school, I couldn’t care for them as much as I should but they understood and endured.  To my brothers and friends and the people of South Sudan who helped me through this, thank you.  And to the International Community and her Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) operating in South Sudan, and our friends to who are committed into making sure that, South Sudan is back to peace, you inspired me to study peace and conflict resolution, and I say thank you!

The views expressed in this piece are solely those of the author whose name appears above. He’s a Citizen of South Sudan, and he comes from Duk County, Jonglei State. I can be reached at; samuelador2007@yahoo.com

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made are the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article or news analysis, please email it to paanluel2011@gmail.com. SSB do reserve the right to edit material before publication. Please include your full name, email address and the country you are writing.


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