The obstacles in her way were not enough to dampen her resolve or smother her humongous dream. Naomi Chol is an amazing 16 year old, who is in love with the future she sees, a future where the sick and dying are given another chance to live a good life, and the youths strengthened to go after their dreams. A future where everything is possible.
In 2008, Naomi’s family fled conflict in their home area of South Sudan’s Upper Nile state and made their way to Kenya’s capital Nairobi. Life at this point proved really tough, yet Naomi’s parents fought all odds to keep the family together, but as the days went by, the tide grew fiercer and so they resolved to send Naomi and her siblings to Kakuma to live with an aunt, in hope that they would get an education.
Like Naomi’s parents anticipated, lines aligned for their daughter in Kakuma, and she was enrolled in 2012 as a boarder at a primary school in the Kakuma refugee camp. To a great extent, that marked a new beginning for the young girl.
With an unremitting devotion and courage, Naomi took off on the new path. At this time, most of her friends dropped out of school as they could no longer cope with the uncomfortable conditions. Indeed schooling in Kakuma camp can be difficult as resources are often scarce especially with the recent influx from South Sudan. Classrooms are usually congested and teachers are inadequately trained.
But Naomi had a dream, a vision which would not be sold for a morsel of bread, she envisioned herself as the pillar upon which the future of her community and family would be hinged, and that meant everything to her.
“Most of my friends were just staying at home and some were even getting married. I didn’t want that for myself,” she says.
Her eyes are set on the goal “I want to be a neurosurgeon. I love science and I know there aren’t many female neurosurgeons in the region, but I believe in myself,” she explains. And she hopes her next school; the reputable Loreto Matunda Boarding School in Lodwar (a national school that is one of the top schools in the district) will bring her closer to that goal.
She also dreams that someday, there would be lasting peace in South Sudan, as she hopes to help rebuild the country after several years of conflict. “Excelling in my education is the best gift I can offer to my country because, with education, one can achieve anything in life.”
It appears that the young dreamer is already on her way to achieving the unbelievable and gaining world acclaim. Few months ago, Naomi stunned her school and entire district, when she was awarded the highest mark in the annual Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams, which took place in November 2014. She scored 418 out of a possible 500 marks.
Naomi’s school at the Kakuma refugee camp was funded and supported by Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie Pitt. The school is known locally as the Angelina Jolie Primary School. It was set up by the UNHCR Special Envoy in 2002 to cater for girls with special protection needs.
Like the actress, Naomi has become a celebrity in her own right and a model to other girls in her school. “Everywhere I go, people call me and come to shake my hand,” she tells visitors to the Kakuma camp.
She remains thankful for the awesome privilege she has received and for the support from her family. “I am lucky to have studied in a boarding school as it gave me more time to focus on studies. My parents also encouraged me a lot and reminded me of the great opportunity I have to be in school.”
For Naomi, the journey has just begun. Though the road appears rough and full of uncertainties, she stands undaunted, with her eyes fixed on the mark.
“As a refugee, I know that I have to work twice as hard as anyone else to achieve my dreams. I am not afraid of hard work because I know I will reap the benefits.”
Indeed, with courage, hope and resilience, life only gets better…….
Ahead, ahead Naomi! Spread your wings and soar, for Africa is delighted in you.
*Quotes culled from unhcr.org