Here is the complete story of Danson Machek, a Sud Academy graduate in 2014. This piece was written by Micah Odemba, our liason officer with Christian Mission Aid in August of 2015.
A STUDENTS INSURMOUNTABLE CHALLENGES OVERCOMED
Recently I visited Sud-Academy with a different agenda from my normal roles. I arrived during break time, and therefore I drew the attention of many eyes that have become my good friends whom am always eager to see.
At one corner of the playing field, I had a chat with Danson Machek. He is an alumnus of Sud-Academy. He was there for six years. It was rare to find someone who has been there for long but he was the right person to share with me how his experience was at Sud and what he is now up to.
Danson graduated last year, and he was more than glad to share his story with me. He is a South Sudanese who has grown up in Kenya since the age of six. His aunt brought him to Kenya at a very young age and they lived together at kakuma refugee camp until his sister who was married to a Sudanese came to Kenya and she took him in.
During this period, Danson learnt to take care of himself; his auntie couldn’t care entirely for him and was not able to continue to pay for his school fees. Machek had not experienced much love and hustling his way around life is quite normal for him. When his sister took him in, he managed to go back to school. Danson’s mother and younger sister live at Kakuma Camp, which is a refugee camp in Kenya located in Turkana not too far from the Kenya-Sudan border.
While staying at his sister’s, he learnt of Sud-Academy which he joined in class 6. This was a turning point in his life; education began to make sense. He always desired to be somebody important in life, ‘Previously I just did not see anything good would come out of my life with all the sheers of back luck and lack or opportunity I was getting,’ he explained. Now education made sense, it opened his mind to know he can make his life better than he has lived so far. From a very young age, Danson has been seeing some light at the end of the tunnel, though dim it encourages him to go through every day and each stage of his life.
Machek travelled to the Kakuma Refugee Camp at the end of class seven because there was a refugee census happening. Since he was delayed in the process and could not make it back to Sud-Academy on time, they registered him at the camp for his end of primary education exams. He took his final year exam there and after the results, he went back to Sud-Academy for his high school.
It could be because of his rough time growing up, or the fact that he has had it in him to be something more than what he has seen his relatives and families become, either way, he has a story to tell.
Machek was an average student in school, he went about his studies like many other Sudanese students did, struggling with the language and interpretation of the content. Many Sudanese would find it easier learning English but Swahili is a struggle for most.
The more Machek interacted with people in his neighborhood, the more he felt left out in all the fun because he did not understand everything they said. He says ‘I was missing all the fun’. This language barrier is what motivated Machek to learn Swahili, local slang known as ‘sheng’ and speak his English fluently. In no time, he was the ONE student in the whole school who could interact without effort in all these languages. Back at home where he was hosted by a family living near Sud-academy he also blended in and he now felt one of them.
While at Sud, he played soccer for the school team but, poetry and the arts were a passion for him. He loves expressing himself, telling his story and sharing about political and social issues through spoken word. He engaged himself with activities where he could bring out his skills and sharpen them in the process while still in high school. Throughout his senior year at Sud-academy, Machek visited other high schools together with a team known as ‘Southeathre’.
This exposed Machek to the life outside South Sudanese circle, outside class, and into what he called ‘the world’. On completion of high school, Machek did not stop there as though it was only a hobby; Together with five other South Sudanese friends, they came up with an initiative in January 2015 to help the youth explore their talents. They organize events where people can come and express themselves artistically: singing, spoken word/poetry, dancing, calligraphy, and others. For now he is an established MC and Deejay. During these events, they invite as many South Sudanese as they can find to engage them to interact with other Kenyans. This initiative has also attracted famous and upcoming Kenyan artists who support the cause fully because they also desire to have other people know about their music and talent. Most of the events advocate for peace, love and forgiveness using their artistic skills.
One of the greatest achievements out of this initiative that Machek is more than glad to share is how they organized the South Sudan Independence Day celebration and created a concert. This concert attracted over 1000 South Sudanese.
How is it that he has done so much in his life and seems so focused in this short period? He explains that he has lived at the refugee camp; he has struggled, and knows the dependency feeling all too well. This is the reason he says it is a situation he would not want to be in the rest of his life. He desires to get established as an independent citizen and land a job in the media to realize his dreams. Machek has no light words for fellow South Sudanese who live and depend on relatives and well wishers abroad.
Machek also got exposed to different parts of this country with his group, as they held performance tours in other parts outside Nairobi. This was just seven months after school and we can say so much about what he has been busy doing.
As we concluded the brief interview, I wanted to find out if there were any benefits of being a student of Sud-Academy. Without hesitation he begun, ‘First I could not have been fluent in my Swahili and English if it wasn’t for Sud. I was also encouraged to work hard and to be independent when I finish school; that I should find something I love and take it up head strong. I am glad I studied there because now I have many genuine friends whom I keep in touch with.’’ He says with a smile. ‘My results might not have been excellent but that did not demotivate me, I am now studying TV and media at East African Media School in Nairobi town and I am glad it is my passion I am going for.’
Such positive words from Danson were heartwarming, an assurance that we are not supporting the students and the school in vain.
His parting shot was that his fellow student alumni should not succumb to negative influence and should seek positive role models because they will play a big role in helping their focus.