From Despair to Student Leadership: Robert’s Journey

In the midst of conflict and uncertainty in South Sudan, Robert Wani Ali found himself engulfed in despair. The once-promising prospects of education, peace, and a meaningful life were overshadowed by the constant echo of gunshots. Forced to flee to Uganda in 2016, Robert, like many others, sought refuge from the chaos that had torn apart his homeland. However, even in the face of adversity, hope found its way back into his life through the compassion and support of humanitarian organizations.

Welcomed by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), UNHCR, and partner humanitarian organizations, Robert and fellow asylum seekers were guided to the plots of land for settlement at Palorinya Refugee Settlement. The initial days were far from easy. Life in the settlement was fraught with challenges such as constant sickness, unsafe water, hunger, and a glaring absence of educational facilities. But amidst the hardships, emerged Windle International Uganda (WIU) an organisation that transforms lives through education.

WIU initiated various programs aimed at empowering refugees like Robert. Through relentless efforts, learning centres were established, “Go Back to School and Stay in School” campaigns were launched, and Village Education Communities (VECs) were formed. These initiatives mobilized school-going children and kick-started the registration process. With the support of WIU, resources were mobilized, and temporary structures were erected to facilitate learning. Trained teachers, including members from the refugee communities, were recruited and equipped to guide students on their educational journey.

For Robert, this marked the beginning of a new chapter. “I enrolled in Primary Five at Morobi Primary School where I received essential scholastic materials, which fuelled my determination to excel,” Robert said.

Upon completing primary level education, Robert transitioned to Idiwa Parents Secondary School, where another opportunity awaited him.

During the Rapid Gender Analysis study conducted by World University Services of Canada (WUSC), Agha Khan Foundation (AKF), WIU, and the various stakeholders in Obongi and Moyo districts in 2020, it was discovered that adolescent girls and young female youth perusing educational pathways do not have knowledge on life skills on how to live with themselves, live with others and make better decisions that can prepare them for tomorrow’s leadership.

The AGENCI project introduced Life Skill Clubs in schools to equip vulnerable adolescents with essential life skills. Life skills clubs play a vital role in empowering students to become confident, responsible, and competent individuals who are prepared to face the challenges of the modern world. They complement academic education by focusing on the development of skills and competencies that are essential for success in all aspects of life. Robert happily joined the club which transformed his life in ways he never thought possible.

“When I joined the Life Skills Club, I was able to discover my passion for leadership and advocacy. Through the program modules, I improved my skills and developed a strong sense of responsibility towards my peers and community,” Robert remarked.

Driven by a desire to make a difference, Robert set his sights on becoming the head prefect of his school. This position presented a platform to advocate for vulnerable adolescent girls and female youth, ensuring their needs were recognized and prioritized. Today, Robert proudly serves as the Head Prefect of Idiwa Parent Secondary School, leading by example and inspiring positive change. Serving as a head prefect has provided him with a platform to cultivate and refine essential life skills that are integral to his personal development and future success. The role has offered him practical experiences and opportunities for growth, shaping students into responsible, empathetic, and effective leaders who can positively impact their communities.

As he pursues his studies in Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics, Robert’s dreams extend beyond personal success. He has aspirations of working in the petroleum industry, to continue his journey of uplifting his community and empowering vulnerable groups, particularly girls and female youth.

In his own words, Robert calls upon fellow youth, parents, and stakeholders to join him in supporting vulnerable adolescent girls and female youth, advocating for their rights, and fostering an inclusive environment where everyone can thrive.

Compiled by: Joseph Waninda & Samuel Opira

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