Tributes to Akol Lual Lual Who Pioneered Academic Excellence in Kakuma, Kenya

Posted: November 12, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Columnists, Commentary, Contributing Writers, Deng Diar Diing, Junub Sudan, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

Engineer Akol Lual Lual Akol’s Role in Transforming the Concept of Education among the Refugees in Kakuma, Kenya

By Deng Diar Diing, Mombasa, Kenya

The Late Akol Lual Lual Akol

Tributes to the Late Engineer Akol Lual Lual Who Pioneered Academic Excellence in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya

Monday, November 12, 2018 (PW) — The outpour of grief and shock from the Jesh Amer and Lost Boys community following sudden death of Eng. Akol Lual Lual Akol has left many to wonder to the pattern and girth of appeal this gentleman had. It is clear that Akol has been mourned by a population that had its roots in Jesh Amer of Dima, Fugnido and Polataka who eventually found themselves in Kakuma. This is not to discount the fact that there are a lot of people who have and still are mourning in silence out of intensity of sorrow or lack of access to the social media.

It has also to be noted that those who showed their grief in public domains are not making it for a show of association but rather, hero’s death just like John Garang was, are normally too sad to bear individually and normally are communal angst. After all, a problem shared is half solved.

Akol Lual Lual was laid to rest yesterday in his village of Akon. May God rest his soul in peace. To all the outpour of commiserations and eulogies about the life of Eng. Akol as an inspiration to his peers, I would like to bring forth the processes that led him to be a hero of this important constituency. As a beneficiary of his epic academic journey and someone who took a mantle of my time following his inspiration, I feel spellbound to explaining why we love this gentleman that dear.

There was this Catholic Scholarship program called Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) that used to sponsor the top 3% percent of refugees who sat for Kenya Certificate of Primary Education for secondary education to Kenyan Public Schools. Akol Lual Lual, Marial Kuol, Samuel Anyieth, Chol de Guin and Bior Gayo won this scholarship in 1994(This group was later joined by Peter Gatpan Thoar). William Andrew was sponsored in 1993.

Their feat opened up hope for the refugees who had no idea of what future held for them. Their names became the hallmark of hope that there was a better tomorrow if one worked hard.  Akol  Lual Lual Samuel Anyieth and Chol DeGuin were taken to Lokore/Kakuma Boys’ Secondary School while Marial Kuol and Bior Gayo were taken to Katilu Boys Secondary School.

A group that followed in 1995 included Awar Ayuen Awar, Gai Solomon, Samuel Deng Majok Chol, Sunday Stephen Kel, Martin Garang Aher, Majok Kuol Mading, Mabior Kon, Mading Manyok, late Garang Isaac Kot, Majier Anyang and myself (I beg for forgiveness if I have omitted anyone in the list). We were later joined by late Kuai Chiengkou Ajuoi.

This was followed by a bigger group in 1996 that included to mention a few; Dr. David Tor, Kuir e Garang, Akol Aguek, Kuek Dut, Manyok Chuol, Dr. James Yai, Albino Madut, Dhor Aher, Macar Buol, Geu Macar. And in every year that followed, a bigger number was enlisted into the scholarship.

This scholarship programme played very important role because it gave these refugees the sense that there was a better future regardless of all the difficulties surrounding them. People had to work very hard at school to secure a slot from very few available.

But as the 3% celebrated, many who did not make it to this scholarship programme were busying themselves to either repeat Class 8 or abandoned schooling all together because there were no alternatives seemed available. Yes, there was Kakuma Refugee Secondary School but many thought it did not give the quality that would secure them positions at universities after Secondary School.

So, the negative consequences were again becoming dire as a lot of people were either losing time repeating or dropping out in their pursuit of education. This was also because the environment in the camp was not supportive enough.

Akol Lual Lual and Marial Kuol initiated a process where we would be providing tutorial classes and reading support to those who were in Kakuma Refugee Secondary School and Class 8 at our free time.

Akol Lual Lual Akol

Tributes to the Late Engineer Akol Lual Lual Who Pioneered Academic Excellence in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya

With this initiative, we were able to focus on subjects that did not have good systemic support in the camp like Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry. We also took the opportunity to let those who did not make it to JRS scholarship know that it was not all lost, they could still make it in the Secondary Schools within the Camp.

Led by Akol Lual and Marial Kuol, we developed a routine of volunteering over holidays to offer free tuitions in Sciences and Mathematics. This became a tradition that was followed by those who followed. And undeniably, positive spirit was established in Kakuma Secondary School and grades began to rise to compete with those who were sponsored. So, Akol Lual Lual and his peers ahead of us managed to transform education among our people by letting them believe that, as long as one worked hard and clearly understood his/her objectives of schooling, the institution one went to did not determine the quality of  education.

As the first batches approached completion of Secondary School education, there was a need to set a record that needed to be replicated by the team that was following.

Again, Akol Lual did not disappoint us. He set a bar in 1998 by leading his batch of JRS Scholars and his School, Lokore Boys’ Secondary School in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education with a grade of B+ (78 points). The highest grade ever attained in that school and of course the first foreigner to lead the school.

This record was another bolster which Sunday Stephen Kel and I had to break in 1999 in which I scored a B+ of 83 points to lead my batch and my high School as well in KCSE. The year that followed saw cousins Macar Buol Deng and Geu Macar Deng leading their batch with A- of 84 and 85 points respectively and also led their school among many foreigners.

These records shifted the ground in favour of South Sudanese in all the schools in Turkana District and beyond. As a result, the quality of education in Turkana district improved as South Sudanese boys and girls injected much-needed optimism into local students and teachers.

The donors were impressed and had to increase the number of students who benefitted from the Scholarship Programme in the years to follow.

Most of them were taken through another scholarship program to go to Canada for University education apart from few of us who chose different paths for personal reasons. However, JRS had to accept to continue paying for me in Africa because that was my choice after the loss of my dad in 1996.

It is therefore suffice to say that, it was through inspiration of Akol Lual and his peers who were academic leaders of their generation that the culture of academic meritocracy was born among South Sudanese in Kenya in particular. The same culture was carried to the United States and other Western Countries where the lost boys were resettled because it became the most important tool of defining progress.

The above narrative and many more that has not been covered her explains why Akol Lual Lual holds very important position within the community of young and middle-aged intelligentsia of South Sudan, more so, the Lost Boys.

You can reach the author via his email: Deng Diar <diardeng@gmail.com>

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

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