by Gideon Sackitey
“Someone may give you money; but it is the person who gives you skills that makes you.”
Deng Maker Deng, a 23-year-old student in Bor, goes all philosophical as he ponders his good fortunes. He is well placed to do so, as he has experienced at least two major ones.
In 2001, Deng Maker narrowly escaped death. His older brother, who was with him on the devastating day when a landmine exploded, did not.
“It blew up my brother. I was lucky, as I only had some cuts on my arm and forehead,” he says as he points out his remaining bodily marks of the tragedy.
The scars may be there, but 17 years after the accident Deng Maker has, helped by his own persistence, been handed another significant slice of good luck. He and 33 other young men and women make up the eighth batch of graduates from the Hanbit Vocational Training Centre, run by the South Korean contingent of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan. Deng Maker Deng can now call himself an electrical engineer.
Life has not always been as kind to Deng. In 2017, he unceremoniously dropped out of university during his second year of learning everything worth knowing about construction work. He had to, as his family could no longer afford to pay for his academic endeavours. Therefore, the opportunity to benefit from the trainings offered by the vocational centre emerged as a blessing.
“It is like life smiled on me again,” Deng Maker says, recalling the joy he experienced.
Elaborating on the importance of the moment, he explains his family situation and aspirations.
“Coming from a family of six; five boys and a girl, and being the oldest after the passing of my older brother, I had to find something to do that would bring income to enable me to support my ageing parents and my siblings. It [being admitted to the vocational training centre] was very important to me as it was a good way of giving me a skill that would make it possible for me to pursue my dream of providing for my family.”
Deng Maker Deng and his fellow graduates have been enjoying three months’ worth of training in areas including agriculture, carpentry, welding, English and electrical engineering.
“It is a great opportunity for South Sudanese youth to get enrolled in vocational training centres as it will give us the skills needed to support the development of our country. I hope more of my compatriots will get the same opportunity,” he says, casting a look at the crowd of parents, friends and families of students thronging the place to witness and congratulate Deng and his fortunate fellow students.
From Deng Maker’s point of view, capacity building is the ideal way to assist the youth in the country.
“Someone can give you money. You will spend it. But when someone gives you skills, that person helps you for life,” he says, adding that the peacekeeping mission is doing a good job.
His call for institutions to quickly employ the growing group of graduates was welcomed by Dr. Agot Alier, Deputy Governor of Jonglei. During the graduation ceremony, Mr. Alier committed himself to a discussion with the latest batch of successful student on how the public sector can make good use of their newly acquired skills.