|Ugandan student Nokrach, 16, shared his experience during an interview at the UN Radio studio in New York.|
By Pi James
NEW YORK, USA, 12 March 2010 – This year, UNICEF’s flagship Humanitarian Action Report – launched in February – estimates that at least 1.2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Uganda due to droughts, flooding, internal displacement and the return of at least 300,000 Ugandans following the cessation of Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) activities.
UNICEF Radio moderator Amy Costello recently spoke with two Ugandan students – Sanyu, 14, who was orphaned by AIDS, and Nokrach, 16, a former child soldier – about their experiences and the ways in which education has transformed their lives.
‘Maybe I’d be dead’
After losing both of her parents to AIDS when she was very young, Sanyu had to drop out of school to take care of her younger sister and brother. She worked when she could, collecting firewood or washing peoples clothes, to make enough money to feed her siblings.
But then Sanyu met US photographer Steven Shames, who heads the non-governmental organization LEAD Uganda – an educational leadership initiative for children affected by AIDS, war and poverty. With the support of the organization, Sanyu now attends one of the country's top high schools.
UNICEF asked Sanyu what she thought would have happened if she hadn’t become involved with LEAD Uganda.
|Sanyu, 14, was orphaned by AIDS and became the head of her family in Uganda.|
“I don’t know,” she replied slowly. “Maybe I’d be dead.”
Nokrach said he was only seven when rebel soldiers abducted him and forced him to fight in Uganda’s civil war. After fleeing the conflict, he also became involved with LEAD Uganda. He is now attending school, which he said has improved his confidence.
“I can lead my friends and lead the country,” he said. “I think I have the courage and leadership skills… I believe I can make it.”
Sanyu added that education cannot be taken for granted. “Education,” he said, “is how you can achieve your dreams and your goals. I aspire to be a doctor... I want to fight AIDS, that takes the life of many in my country.”
'Beyond School Books'
The following stories are part of the 'Beyond School Books' series focusing on education during emergencies.
Segment #74: Young people provide strategic advice on education issues
Segment #73: Girls advocate for girls' education and gender equality