As part of my Birthday Fundraiser series, I am reposting a portion of
Dr. James Garang’s thank-you letter. Dr. Garang grew up a war-child, but with hard work and the help of many people, received his education. Now, he’s a master in his field.
It Takes a World to Educate a Child
By James Alic Garang
“Come in, Dr. Garang,” Professor Boyce, one of my committee members told me when I was standing outside the economics department conference room waiting for my dissertation defense result. As soon as I came in, I exchanged pleasantries with other members. Professor Heintz shook my hand. Professor Ndikumana said, “Welcome to the club of Ph.D.s.”
I successfully defended my dissertation on March 12, 2014 at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. That news, widely shared through various South Sudanese forums, brought congratulatory messages. Compliments streamed in online, by phone, and on Facebook. Many who have known me from primary and secondary school days in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya through the University of Utah said this day was inevitably coming.
Nonetheless, when reflecting on how this personal achievement came about, I realized that many people around the world were involved in helping out. “It takes a village to raise a child,” said Hillary Clinton, paraphrasing an African proverb. I have realized that it takes a world to educate a student.
Therefore, I want to express my appreciation for my benefactors, from refugee camps in Africa to different colleges in North America. I could not have done it without a number of people who generously extended a helping hand to assist me. As such, this realization of an academic dream belongs to them, my family, and the nation…
I appreciate my teachers, including the late Ustaz Gar Gar, Ariath Amol, and Okindah Wereh, who taught me in primary school in Ethiopia through secondary school in Kenya, for providing an important foundation and instructing me through various grade levels. I credit them for helping me to see that the sky is the limit.
South Sudanese communities in Kakuma, Salt Lake City and New England were also supportive. Through providing altruistic pieces of advice, elders emphasized that we should work hard in school because we were, according to Dr. John, “the seeds” for the New Sudan, which is now the Republic of South Sudan following the successful referendum on January 9, 2011…
I equally appreciate my colleagues for encouraging me to aim higher, and my wife Maria Ayak for caring for our adorable kids while I was tucked away finishing this degree.
Finally, I am deeply indebted to many American friends in Salt Lake City and Amherst for helping out, from paying for college textbooks to filling out financial aid forms to helping out with my rental housing search to helping me prepare for graduate school.
This narrative brings me to the larger theme that I hope to underscore. We are not an island unto ourselves whether in times of joy or sorrow. When we count our blessings, it is inevitable to find that quite a number of people have played a role in it. Taking my educational path as an example, South Sudanese nationals on my way to Ethiopia, Ethiopians in Pinyudo Refugee Camp, Kenyans in Kakuma Camp and Americans in Utah, Amherst and elsewhere contributed to my progress along the path I have now completed.
In summary, just as it takes a village to raise a child, I am convinced it equally takes a world to educate a student through various programs provided to those in need, especially to the young people in refugee camps throughout the world. Because we are part of a larger human family, many Good Samaritans have done and continue to do their utmost in contributing to making this world a better place for all to live, especially for the least fortunate among us.
James Alic Garang, formerly one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, holds a Ph.D. from UMass Amherst. Read his complete article here.
Would you be one of the Good Samaritans who contributes to Malik’s developing story?
This is a post from my 6th Annual Birthday Fundraiser series. Read more here: