From Strife to Head Girl: Florence’s Journey in Palorinya Refugee Settlement

In the heart of Palorinya Refugee Settlement, amidst the trials of displacement and the echoes of a past marked by civil strife, Florence Aduwa’s story is a testament to resilience and the power of education.

Forced to flee her homeland in South Sudan with her family during the civil war, Florence found herself surrounded in the chaos of overcrowded refugee camps. Yet, amid the turmoil, there emerged an inspiration of hope as organizations of both implementing and operating partners that worked tirelessly to mitigate the suffering and restore a semblance of normalcy.

The memory of the cholera outbreak in the Elegu transit center remained etched in Florence’s mind, a stark reminder of the fragility of life in such dire circumstances. However, with the swift intervention of humanitarian aid, and support from organisations and partners, the tide began to turn, paving the way for a more stable existence. Amid these hard times, Florence embarked on a new journey of learning as she enrolled in the nearest school, grappling with a new curriculum and language of instruction. Initially daunting, this however changed when she got to know about Windle International Uganda, which recruited staff from the local community to bridge the language barrier

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic posed another unprecedented challenge, threatening to derail the educational progress she had made thus far.

WIU and World University Service of Canada (WUSC), in partnership with Global Affairs Canada supported learners as a result of COVID-19 pandemic. They leveraged additional resources to support schools, communities, and boys and girls in Moyo and Obongi to effectively respond to the uncertainties and enable all boys and girls to continue their learning.

The situation had posed unprecedented challenges to Ugandan’s education system and more so the marginalized and vulnerable populations living in crisis and conflicts including adolescent refugees, the host communities. The COVID-19 Emergency Response for the Adolescent Girls’ Education in Crisis Initiative (AGENCI) slowed the spread of the virus and mitigated its effects for schools, households, and communities by rapidly responding to immediate necessities, including providing important personal protection equipment (PPE) and COVID-19 messaging to enable communities to take positive action towards protecting themselves and boys and girls living in these communities. Through innovative initiatives by AGENCI project, Florence and her peers were equipped with radios and recorded lessons, ensuring continuity of learning amidst the lockdown.

Guided by local mentorship program facilitated by the AGENCI project, Florence honed her leadership skills, eventually assuming the role of Head Girl at Idiwa Parents Secondary School, Obongi District. “Through the mentorship I received, I gained confidence in myself which greatly developed my leadership skills. This enabled me to contest for the position of head girl at Idiwa Parent Secondary School where I emerged successful,” Florence shared with a sense of pride and achievement.

Florence Aduwa Posing with fellow student leaders at Idiwa SS – Photo Credit: Joseph Waninda/WIU

Empowered by this support, Florence found herself flourishing academically and socially, with newfound clarity and confidence. The concerted efforts to engage parents in their children’s education proved instrumental, fostering a sense of collective responsibility and investment in the future generation.

Undeterred by adversity, Florence persevered and successfully completed her senior four Uganda Certificate of Education, setting her sights on advanced studies where she is currently studying Geography, Economics, and Agriculture. Recorded lessons through radios played a vital role in ensuring that children continued to have access to education during the COVID-19 pandemic, contributing to their academic, social, and emotional development despite the unprecedented circumstances.

Florence hopes to become a finance manager for an NGO in future so that she can support other vulnerable girls in her community.

From the 4,566 (Female 1,621, Male 2, 94) students in Palorinya refugee settlement, 210 adolescent girls were directly empowered by AGENCI project through life skill activities. This created an inclusive gender responsive safe learning environment.

Florence voiced her gratitude to Global Affairs Canada, World University Service of Canada, and Windle International Uganda. “Through their collective efforts, countless lives, including mine, have been transformed, paving the way for a brighter tomorrow amidst the uncertainty.”


Compiled by: Joseph Waninda & Samuel Opira

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