If you could sit with Malik and ask him questions about why he wants to go to college and eventually become a doctor, how would he answer? Here are his responses to a few questions you may be asking.
How would you describe your early childhood years?
I was born in the Nuba Mountains of central Sudan in 1993 in the middle of civil war and severe famine. My siblings and I would spend the whole day crawling on the ground looking for seeds to eat, while my mother went to the forest to look for edible grass, and my father went hunting so that we could survive for another day. Our source of water was a 6 meter well located three hours’ distance from home. During the war, the water was poisoned, but because there was no other source, we drank it anyway and amazingly survived.
What was education like for you in that environment?
I was so desperate to attend school that I began sneaking off and following my older sister at age five. I did not own any clothes, so when the teachers found me in the assembly naked, they forced me to return home. Once I finally enrolled in school, I experienced the poor quality of education. The teachers were not officially paid and teacher attendance was generally inconsistent. There were hardly any supplies. When I received my pencil, I had to hold on to it for two years. There were approximately six textbooks for the entire school. Because of the war, classes would often be cancelled spontaneously depending on the security situation. Military aircrafts would drop bombs and the school had to be shifted from one place to another in the bush. In the year 2000, a cease fire was announced and a peace agreement signed.
Did education improve after the war?
Not immediately, but in 2003, teachers were hired from Kenya and the quality of education improved. We started learning English and I began performing very well, quickly moving through the grade levels. The teachers perceived my potential and began specifically investing in me. I became the most proficient English speaker in my village and was asked to serve as a translator for many NGOs. My teachers pleaded with the organizations to sponsor me and have me transferred to a better school system so that I could reach my full potential academically.
Did any organization help you get into a better school?
In 2007, one of my good friends moved to work with Iris Ministries in Southern Sudan, an organization that cared for orphans. He spoke to the director about my educational potential and she agreed to allow me to come to Yei to study at a better school. There, I began my O-levels (equivalent to grades 6-10 in the American school system).
What was that adjustment like for you?
The first term was challenging as the quality of education, though still relatively poor, exceeded that of Nuba. However, I adjusted quickly, and by the second term, I was the best in class. I graduated at the top of my class. 992 South Sudanese students sat for the Senior 4 exams (equivalent to final exams for 10th grade), and I finished among the top ten students in the entire country, in spite of the poor school facilities and poor instruction we received.
What happened after finishing your O-levels (6-10th grade)?
A group of international aid workers from New Zealand and the United States became so interested in my progress that they sponsored me for A-levels in Kampala, Uganda (A-levels are equivalent to 11-12th grade in the American system). I was accepted into one of the best schools in Uganda because the head master was so impressed that a student from South Sudan could achieve the exam results I did. When I began Senior 5 (11th grade), the first term was challenging because I lacked knowledge of basic concepts, similar to how it had been for me transferring from Nuba to Yei. I worked hard, and in the third term, I was once again among the best students in school. My ability to adjust quickly to new environments and succeed when challenged, as well as my good communication skills, helped me a lot.
Why do you want to become a doctor?
After witnessing many people in my village dying of treatable and preventable diseases such as malaria and tetanus infections, I became passionate about medicine. On attending school and learning that those people’s lives would have been saved had they been given medical attention, I was motivated to study medicine.
Can you give an example of how medical attention could have made a difference?
I remember one boy who got a small cut on his leg. A common practice in my village is putting soil in wounds to stop the bleeding and tobacco to keep away flies. Because of no nearby medical facilities, the boy’s injury grew and became infected until he contracted tetanus. The leg started rotting until his tibia was exposed and eventually, his leg had to be amputated. It is my goal to stop such things from happening.
I read a book entitled Where There Is No Doctor which teaches how to treat sick people in areas where there are no hospitals. I found it very helpful because it referred exactly to the situation in my village. After I finish my studies, I would like to return to Nuba and open a clinic, because there are literally no hospitals. The closest medical facility to my village is six hours away.
Do you have interest in any particular kind of medicine?
My specific interest is in surgery. There are lots of people in my home area in need of surgical treatment who have to be transferred to other nearby countries. However, I am very open to learning more about other fields of medicine because surgical facilities and equipment may not be available in my home area. I would like to set up hospitals in villages to save poor people from spending all they have on treatment. I would like to provide accessible and affordable treatment for the poor so that they don’t have to travel to other countries.
Your goal is to return and serve your community in Nuba. Is service part of your life now, or just a dream for the future?
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” What do you do for fun?
In addition to medicine, I am very much interested in sports, especially volleyball, football (soccer), and basketball. I like playing football (soccer) with my friends and promoting sports activities in the community, trying my best to make sure people enjoy sports. I was elected as the head of the sports and health departments of the Nuba Student Association in Yei, South Sudan. I’m very competitive, and I really enjoy watching football, especially England’s Premier League. I support Chelsea FC.
Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
Since fighting resumed in the Nuba Mountains in 2011, this has developed an even greater desire in me to return and be of assistance to my people. I would like to study biochemistry at Oklahoma Wesleyan University to help me toward the goal of becoming a doctor, and I want to develop strong Christian character to help me in my future studies and work. If I get my qualifications in the medical field, I will provide a much-needed service to the Nuban population.
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