POSTED BY 60milliongirls | Feb, 14, 2015 |

A Refugee Girl Defies the Odds

We always love to hear that our investment in educating girls is helping the children who need it most. This week we received news from our partner in Kenya that sixteen-year-old student, Athok Abuoi Chol, not only benefited from the remedial lessons we funded in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp, but graduated from primary school with a mark of 418 out of a possible 500. Congratulations, Athok!

Sixteen may seem old for primary school graduation. Yet for children caught up in conflict, studies are often interrupted. This makes finishing on time a challenge. Completing school in these circumstances is a huge accomplishment.

Athok fled her native South Sudan in 2008 and while her country achieved independence from Sudan in July 2011, the situation remains voluble. Conflict broke out again in December 2013 leading to a renewed outflow of refugees.

Uncertainty is rife across the region where warfare and conflict have created a volatile mix of people driven from their homes. Refugees from Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have also fled local conflicts in recent years, crossing into neighbouring countries.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that there are:

  • 508,553 refugees from South Sudan with 1.3 million Internally Displaced People (IDP).
  • 493,494 refugees from the DRC with 2.6 million IDPs
  • 1 million refugees from Somalia with another 1.1 million IDPs

Complicating matters, warfare in the Central African Republic has led to refugees from that country entering South Sudan and the DRC.

Like Athok, many refugees have ended up in Kenya. The Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps host over half a million refugees.

We know that children, like Athok, caught up in conflict are among the world’s most vulnerable and the least likely to be able to finish school.

As of 2012, there were 58 million primary aged children and 63 million children of lower secondary age, out-of-school worldwide. That’s a total of 121 million children.

55 million of the world’s total out-of-school children live in sub-Saharan Africa; 30 million of these are girls.

Half of all out-of-school children live in conflict zones.

59% of primary-aged children in South Sudan do not go to school.

(data source: UNESCO Institute of Statistics: Fixing the Broken Promise of Education for All)

The programs available to children can help to provide the tools for learning, but getting ahead also requires resilience and a personal determination to go to school. Girls face additional challenges due to the prevalence of early and forced marriage, female genital mutilation and other forms of gender-based violence.

According to UNICEF, over half of all girls from South Sudan are married before the age of 18 and 9% are married before they are 15 years old.

Athok first settled in Nairobi, Kenya. However, when her uncle was no longer able to support her education, she and two siblings moved to the Kakuma refugee camp where school was free. She attended the Angelina Jolie Girls Primary School.

Athok benefited from the remedial classes that the 60 million girls Foundation funded in 2008, a pilot project which later led to a $20 million investment from the British government. To read more about this program, please visit our web page.

Following her graduation, Athok moved back to Nairobi and is currently attending the Alliance Girls High School. In the future, she wishes to join a World University Service of Canada (WUSC) program to study in Canada for her university education. Her dream is to become a surgeon and return to South Sudan to give back to her society. She would also like to be a good role model to other girls in the society. You can hear Athok in this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=A54toUoCpUM#t=0

Athok’s parents, who are back in South Sudan, have been her greatest motivation, as she quoted them, “Educating a girl is like educating the whole society.” “By getting educated, I will reach the whole world.”

In giving advice to other girls Athok says, “The environment under which you study does not matter as long as you focus on your studies and have the right support, if I made it you can as well make it.”

TAGS : Africa Democratic Republic of the Congo Kakuma refugee camp Somalia South Sudan WUSC

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