Kenya: Refugee Candidate Beats the Odds to Post Impressive Grades

When Gatluak Machuol arrived at the Kakuma refugee camp in 2014, he had no idea what the future held for him.

At the age of just 17, his life suffered a tumultuous disruption when a new civil war broke out in his motherland South Sudan, Unity state where he and his family had called home.

"My family and I were among the people who were forced out of the country after our home was destroyed. So we had to seek refuge at the Kakuma refugee camp," recalls Machuol.

Nothing can ever prepare a person to be a refugee, he says: "One day you are living happily in a country which you love, the next day you have to run away from it to save your life."

But even with all that was happening in his life, he chose to immerse himself in education.

"Having come from a different education system I had to enroll in Class Seven and did my Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) in 2015. I managed to score 367 marks," explains Machuol.

He then moved to Nairobi to live with an uncle. At this time, however, his dream of joining high school had to take a back seat when his grandmother fell sick.

"I am the firstborn in a family of eight children so I had to stay at home and take care of my grandmother after she fell and fractured her hip. Money was scarce so we could not afford the kind of medical care she needed. Unfortunately, she died a few months later," recalls Machuol.

After the death of his grandmother in 2017, Machuol enrolled at Tassia Hill Academy for his high school education, at the age of 20.

Paid off

He says that no matter how long it took, he knew that one day he would go to high school.

His patience and determination paid off on Monday when the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination results were announced by Education CS George Magoha.

Machuol managed a B plain, scoring B- and B+ respectively in his "favourite subjects", Physics and Mathematics.

Interestingly, he says he was pleasantly surprised that he did better in Kiswahili (B plain) than in English (B minus).

This, he says, is because he was first introduced to Kiswahili when he and his family arrived at the Kakuma refugee camp in 2014.

"In fact, I learnt the first Swahili word 'habari (how are you?)' in 2014 while at the refugee camp. I'm absolutely impressed that I did better in Kiswahili than in English. I have always been fast in learning new things," he offers.

"This journey has been humbling to me. I remember a time when I would have low self-esteem because I am now 24 years old and just finished my high school, whereas my agemates are now graduates. But I'm glad I have gone through the system and I have done it at my own pace."

His hope is that he will get the funds to join university and achieve his dream of becoming a teacher.

"I come from a humble family and I know paying for university fees will be a challenge. I wish I could join university so that when I go home I take something valuable with me. My passion is in teaching because I believe that through teaching you can change lives by empowering a person through education," he says.

"My advice to next year's candidates is to always be sincere with themselves because you can fool everyone around you but not yourself. And always put God first," says Machoul.

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