South Sudanese Refugee Becomes Head Teacher In Uganda

For more than 15 years, Elishoma James has been a primary school teacher in South Sudan, a country born out of struggle for more than 21 years of civil war between the north now known as Sudan and the then Southern Sudan which got its independence from the Khartoum government in 2011.

South Sudanese Refugee Becomes Head Teacher In Uganda
Elishoma James (L) talking to agencies in Moyo [Photo by Paul Night]

By Paul Night

MOYO, 10 December 2017 [Gurtong]-
War broke out in 2013 just two years from the birth of the newest country leading the hopes of more the a million in dilemma of what every South Sudanese thought was the milestone of peace, dignity, prosperity for their children and the beginning of the new life for all without the oppressions and suffering of the struggle to liberation that every South Sudanese fought for.

“I left my home together with my family to seek refuge in Uganda,” said James.

Owing to the civil war that destabilized South Sudan, James fled to Uganda and settled in Moyo district in 2013. He had just entered the refugee camp Palorinya, he did not anticipate of becoming a head teacher despite his teaching background.

“I could have never imagined myself as a head teacher in a foreign country it’s only accorded to me when parents convened meeting to see who could lead the primary school and finally decided in 2015 to choose me”,Jame said.

And he was right to be surprised because the 45 year old South Sudanese refugee says he is not highly educated. He said he could have advanced his education had the war not disrupted his country “i did a certificate in primary teaching, I had taught for close to 15years before the war broke. I was at the time thinking of upgrading my studies”, Jame narrated.

Despite his education background he hasn’t given up although the job was challenging and hectic at first but i have managed for the two years now”, James states.

James was born in South Sudan in 1972 and grew up with his parents. “I studied from South Sudan and only crossed to Uganda for college studies after I returned to South Sudan and started teaching,” he said.

Although he is a trained teacher, James had always wanted to be a politician but as he grows into the career, he has learnt to cherish teaching. “This is a Job I did not know I would do even when I was training to become a teacher i did not know I was going to become a head teacher at some point”, he said.

Although he was eased into his Job, he says he is paid off by the parents after contributions and also the teachers. “Previously, we used to provide free services until some non-governmental organizations came in and started funding some of the teachers. I am now working with a team of about 12 teachers”, he said.

James said there are more than 700 children sharing one classroom block causing overcrowding.

“We operate in shifts on daily basis. One block is divided into five classes. Each accommodates more than 250 children and we need more help in human resource and capacity building,” James narrates.

“We are only 12 teachers teaching more than 700 children of refugees. This is from primary one to primary seven. Although most of the work is done by the teachers, I do the overseeing which is hectic itself”, he said.

The head teacher added that early pregnancies and lack of sources of clean water near school have become big hurdles in the school. “As a head teacher, this is a tricky issue as you have to explain to the pupils why the water is not available.”

He is also a family man, married and has four children.


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