Nuba East Africa Students
Their future lies in ruins in the Nuba Mountains

by Wasaka Koja

September 23, 2008

One could say it is God’s love to let young Nuba boys join the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, although many of them suffered on their way from the Nuba Mountains to Southern Sudan. Some died of diseases; some got lost on the way; others drowned in the rivers and many died during the war.

They started their journey in different years: some left the Mountains in 1987, and many of them got settled in Ethiopia. The majority left from 1990 onwards, and after reaching Southern Sudan they were scattered all over the country. Some stayed in Torit; Polataka; Moli. The boys who had settled in Ethiopia had to run in 1991, when the Mengistu regime was overthrown. By 1992 they had been resettled at Nairus near Kapoeta. I was one of them.

There in the south the older boys were recruited to be soldiers while the young ones were kept around in Southern Sudan to study. But as they were studying they came to realize that they were heading nowhere: their studies were interrupted; they were taken from school to be conscripted in the army. It seemed the SPLA was keeping the boys in school much as reserves so that if need arise they could immediately train them as soldiers.

Seeing this some boys opted to escape to neighboring countries like Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Egypt, Chad and Congo to try and get a recognized secondary school certificate. Some boys received assistance in Ethiopia and others were being helped by UNHCR at the Kakuma camp in Kenya.

The luckiest Nuba boys were the ones who were sponsored by Bishop Paride Taban in Uganda – that was in 1994. Some time before those boys in Uganda completed their senior four late Cdr. Yusif Kuwa Mekki offered them a scholarship for further education if they would first come to Sudan to teach the Nuba children for two years.

Kuwa wanted to open up a Nuba camp in southern Sudan where the orphans of the fallen Nuba soldiers, the amputees and the internally displaced Nuba would get a place to settle and learn. He wanted Nuba people to got o school or to receive some vocational training. So he agreed with the former governor for Western Equatoria, Mr. Samuel Abu John and the commissioner for Maridi, Mr. Edward Bukolo, to open a camp known as Upper Camp in Maridi. And he told those boys who were about to complete their senior four to decide where to go to: to Maridi or to the Nuba Mountains. Most of them opted to go to the Nuba Mountains since the need there was high and the rate of illiteracy was very high.

Then around the time the first group of students in Uganda finished senior four, Commander Kuwa died, in March 2001. Commander Abdelaziz Adam el Hilu succeeded Kuwa and promised to follow his footstep. So when the students finished they went to the Nuba Mountains to fulfill their promise according to plan. They were joined by a few brothers from Kenya and some of those who had come from Ethiopia; they wanted to teach also, hoping they too could get a sponsorship.

To their surprise two years passed and nothing happened. Although commander Abdelaziz tried very hard to fulfill late Kuwa’s promises, he was not able to obtain sponsorships for the Nuba students. The Regional Education Office could not do anything for them either. And since then, the policy has remained the same: no motivation; no sponsorship; no incentives for the students to continue their education.

I remember there were scholarships chances for about 30 candidates from those Nuba students in the Mountains and others who had been to the university but could not finish. The Regional Education Office conducted the interviews and selected ten students to go to Algeria, ten to go to Egypt and ten to go to Nigeria - I was among them. There were an additional 5 scholarships for studies in Eritrea that were granted based on nomination.

Somehow the five scholarships for Eritrea wandered in the sky until they came back home. For us, the 30 students selected by the Regional Education Office, we were told to be on standby. We would go any time now. And we were kept busy until those scholarship chances disappeared like rain water sinking into the ground.

Recently there were another ten chances for pilot training and ten for artillery training. I was also consulted to join the group but I turned the chance down. Some went; upon reaching Juba they were screened until only a few managed to succeed. I learned that there are two boys in Johannesburg in South Africa taking a pilot training and the rest joined the artillery training in Ethiopia. Our leaders are unable to send their boys to courses that could make them good leaders in the future, except when it is related to the military.

Now most of the Nuba boys who had returned are still scattered in the Nuba Mountains, moving from school to school carrying chalk as if they were created naturally for that career. A few managed to get a job with an NGO, when they have one of their kin working in the organization. The fact is that the employment policy is suffering from a high rate of tribalism and in any case it is a matter of who you know when you apply rather than how many certificates or experience you have.

Many boys tried for sponsorship from their relatives but hardly anyone in the Nuba Mountains has enough resources to support a student for a four year course. And no one is willing to help to you, unless you have a relative who is in good position, with the financial status that goes with it.

So that is the situation of the Nuba East African students. We have turned everywhere trying to get a sponsorship for further education, but with no success at all. Our attempts ended in frustration and loss of hope for the future. The only way left for us to earn a degree is marriage into our community: in our culture marriage is more valuable than a degree from any university. Meanwhile the situation in the Nuba Mountains remains miserable and the future of the Nuba students is in a mess. I think our leaders need to know how much many of us suffered to become who we are today. The saying goes that you shall harvest what you sow. I would like to add that you can’t harvest what you don’t sow.

We hope that the administrative integration in South Kordofan will finally be implemented, so we can see if our Senior Four certificates can earn us a place somewhere in the administration. But this process of integration is moving very reluctantly because we don’t want it to look as if we are begging the National Congress Party to stabilize the CPA in Nuba Mountains/Southern Kordofan state.

In fact this whole integration is of not favorable to us who have studied in East Africa. Until today the educational system in the SPLM administrated areas teaches an English curriculum based on Kenyan and Ugandan school materials. So our certificates from Uganda and Kenya served us well. But our brothers outside the SPLM areas and in all the other northern states are equipped with certificates for an Arabic curriculum. And now the procedure for integrating the administration also includes the educational system.

For us it is really confusing: in the first place we were not told that an integration team was coming to determine our capacities and we should arrange all the necessary documents our selves. So when the team came we did not have the necessary documents ready, and we had no photocopies either. We kept moving from organization to organization to get our documents photocopied, some succeeded, others did not.

As a result many candidates had difficulty providing the proper documentation when the integration team started to grade everyone according to their qualifications. Especially the candidates with certificates from East Africa faced distrust when they presented their documents to the integration team. Before attaching the documents to their application form, the team members would scrutinize them as if they suspected the documents to be false just because they were drawn up in English.

Another problem in South Kordofan is the recent integration of the SPLM police force. The police officers are supposed to receive training so they can be integrated into the state police force. But they were placed at the outskirt of Kadguli town without water or electricity and without proper directive from any side. Eventually many of them dispersed to their different locations without obtaining permission.

In this situation how can we expect civil integration to happen? Our leaders should be careful with theintegrations process, otherwise the people in the SPLM areas will perceive it to be one-sided absorption into the Arabic system, and that will do only damage. It seems as if this integration is taking us back to the Addis Ababa Agreement of 1972. It should be made clear to us if the implementation of the CPA in South Kordofan means integration - or absorption.

For sure the CPA context for South Kordofan is poor and limited. I believe it is so because signing the CPA became such a critical thing to be achieved in Sudan by that time in Naivasha, Kenya. The Nuba had to be included, but there was not time to negotiate properly. So the protocols for the resolution of the conflict in Southern Sudan and Blue Nile are limited – just enough to silence the voice of the Nuba people.

And look! Up to now, no steps towards CPA implementation in the state were honored; so many lame excuses were made why the funds for development have not been released by the Government of National Unity - what the […] is that all about? Therefore our leaders should not sink into their chairs and say it is over: let them think again before signing any agreement with the NCP over integration, because the NCP has always been good at delaying tactics in order to waste our time.

Last but not least I would like to tell our people who are internally displaced and those in diaspora to wake up and challenge the NCP party through educating our brothers who have completed their secondary level. It is the only way to improve the future of the current and coming generations. Let us not channel all those students to teaching: they can be good leaders in the near future if they are given at least five chances in a year for scholarship.

Some years back we used to trigger our gun and shoot as commanded but now the struggle is brains to brains: we should look for people who can take us forward. The main problem we as Nuba students are facing is the divided system of Education in the Nuba Mountains. There is a need for the system to be united; the curriculum should be one to avoid confusion for our children. Let us join hands to support the ones who finished secondary school in East Africa by any means to move on with their studies, and let us make sure that the ones who are coming behind will be able to focus on their careers. If we can not do it, their education will stop at class eight - and that is all.


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