Nhial Deng|Marginalization and vulnerability is not the full story

Separated by war

As the sun sets in Kakuma refugee camp, children run out of the schools, eager to get home while their little feet splash the water from the rain that has just calm down. Others stay behind for a few more minutes to play with their friends. For many children and young people forced to flee their countries, school offers solace for them. Hence, they shelve their challenges for a few hours. No child or young person chooses to be displaced which is why the most vulnerable people shouldn’t be left behind.

‘I was born in Itang, Ethiopia on the 20th of January 1999. I spent most of my childhood there with my father and later moved to Gambella for my middle school. Life in the village was very exciting and interesting until it was stormed by armed militias. I remember that fateful day. I was devastated and lost as I was detached from my family and found myself, as an unaccompanied minor, in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Turkana County, Kenya. There have been moments of adversity and hardships in the camp. However, I’ve also found hope in education,’ Nhial recalls.

Education for refugees

Youth need skills to prepare them for future jobs which will include the use of technology and artificial intelligence. ‘While in high school, I was a very active student in co-curricular activities. I was a member of the Student Government Council for three years and participated in several clubs ranging from peace to journalism clubs. These activities enhanced my leadership and communication skills and also gave me an opportunity to learn from other students. In 2017, our school was equipped with the Instant Network School where I was selected as the student representative. I used this opportunity to learn more about technology and took several free online courses on leadership, information technology, human rights, writing, and peacebuilding,’ Nhial says.

Decent work for refugees

For young people, education is not just about them going through a stage in life; it changes their soul and opens their minds. ‘I enrolled in the Sky School (now Amala Education)’s peacebuilding course after graduating from high school in 2018. This enabled me to understand the reasons for conflicts and the approaches to resolve them. Currently, I am enrolled in the FilmAid International Media Training Program. My long-term goal is to get a degree in International relations, specialize on issues affecting displaced people and work with governments and institutions to rethink and reinvent how we approach the refugee crises. The best solution is to prevent people from fleeing their homes. My media skills will enable me to shade a light to change narratives around the refugee crisis,’ Nhial beams with hope.

‘My work involves providing social media consultancy services to individuals and organizations globally. StepUp is an organization that intervenes by re-skilling refugees in social media marketing and connect them to global opportunities that pay. Getting the training empowered me,’ he adds. Dany Bahar and Meagan Dooley, in an article for the Brookings Institute titled ‘Refugees as assets not burdens: The role of policy,’ emphasize that in an increasingly interconnected world, greater human mobility should be viewed as an opportunity rather than a risk, a vehicle for expanding growth, trade, and human capital accumulation. Migrants and refugees bring skills, knowledge, innovation, and networks to their host nations, a core engine for economic growth.

Call to action

‘In 2019, I was selected as a Global Changemaker because I am passionate about Sustainable Development Goals as a key to transforming our world. My work revolves around advocacy, quality education, skill development, policy-making, peacebuilding, and social entrepreneurship. Being selected as a Global Changemaker was not only inspiring for me but also the youth in my community,’ says Nhial.

‘My call to action for world leaders is to make sure refugees have access to quality education, jobs, and entrepreneurial opportunities, not just handouts and aid. If I am not a student, I am nothing!’ Nhial emphasizes.


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