CHUOR'S INSPIRING STORY
From a Sudanese Refugee to a Doctor
Chuor was born in 1984 in Bor Town, Sudan, just a few months after the start of the Sudanese civil war.
In 1991, Chuor's father, Mr Garang Alier Chuor, left his home village to join the liberation struggle and took his young son with him. A few months later, famine engulfed Chuor's home district and the civilian population there became victimised by intensifying political divisions. Chuor had had a narrow escape.
Between 1991-1999, Chuor and his family moved between internally displaced people's (IDP) camps, including Mangalatore Displaced People's Camp. Schooling was frequently interrupted and Chuor had to repeatedly start his studies from scratch, often under the shade of a tree until 'proper' grass-thatched classrooms could be built. This perpetual displacement led Chuor's family to Uganda in 1995, as the Sudanese government forces made progress against the liberation movement. Chuor was eventually forced to return to Southern Sudan because of the rebellion in northern Uganda led by Joseph Konyi. The brutality of the Ugandan rebellion meant that life in the IDP camps and liberated areas of Southern Sudan was safer.
After reaching the last year of Kendiri Primary School, Chuor could not progress to secondary school because of the lack of educational provision in the liberated areas. At fifteen, Chuor asked permission from his father to go to Uganda alone to receive his education. His father agreed, and Chuor's course was set. He recalls the privilege he felt at riding his bicycle back into Southern Sudan for holidays; people often walked for days to obtain food rations or visit relatives.
Father Bilbao Memorial Primary School accepted Chuor as a candidate in his primary leaving examinations later that year, in 1999. He was one of the three boys—all refugees from Southern Sudan—who achieved a Division One qualification in his school; he also ranked in the top five within the district. Subsequently, the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) offered Chuor a scholarship for his first year of secondary education, through the help of his mathematics and science teachers, Mr Vorodri Perteus and Mr Tako Edward. He completed his first year of secondary school at Bishop Asili Memorial Secondary School in Moyo District, but his scholarship was subsequently revoked because, despite his circumstances, Chuor was not a legally registered refugee in Uganda. That seemed like the end of the road for his education.
By chance, an American nurse called Mary Hippe, who worked for the American Refugee Committee (ARC) in Chuor's IDP camp in Southern Sudan was shown his school results. She also learned that without a scholarship, Chuor would not be able to continue with his education. Moved by his circumstances, Mary offered to pay for the rest of his secondary school education herself. With Mary's support, as well as the help of Father George Ezitrale, the then Moyo District Education Officer, Chuor transferred to a better school, St. Joseph's College Ombaci, Arua District in 2001. He ended up achieving eight distinctions and two credit passes, and was among the top candidates in Northern Uganda in 2004.
Due to his outstanding academic achievements, Chuor was mentioned in the local newspapers and the British Council Resource Centre, based at St. Lawrence High School, Kampala, awarded him a scholarship. Chuor dreamed of becoming a medical doctor despite not having had many role models to emulate in the IDP camps. The doctors there were mostly health assistants who had been given very basic medical training, enough to administer basic care but little more. Few had even finished primary school due to a lack of opportunities and resources.
Chuor completed his A levels in Merryland High School in Entebbe before gaining admission to The University of Dar es Salaam Medical School, now renamed Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences. As the peace accord had been signed between the Sudanese government and the liberation movement forces in the South of Sudan, humanitarian support was now refocused on the repatriation of refugees from Uganda to South Sudan; there was no longer a focus on scholarships for refugee students. This was yet another financial hurdle to overcome, but with the financial aid of generous acquaintances and relatives, Chuor persevered and eventually completed medical school in Tanzania. He also took up an opportunity to be part of a group of medical doctors who were awarded a scholarship by the Ministry of Health, Republic of South Sudan, in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund. This allowed Chuor to specialise as an obstetrician and gynaecologist, with the aim of reducing the maternal mortality rate in South Sudan. Chuor has recently been asked by the Ministry of Health to work at the State Hospital in his hometown of Bor. When he returns, it will be the first time he has been back since 1991.
Having practiced as an obstetrician and gynaecologist, the issue of infertility and the stigma attached to it has led Chuor to focus on assisted conception. He believes that no man or woman should feel less of a human being based on their inability to conceive a child when they desire to have one. The University of Oxford not only offered him a place on the course of Master of Science in Clinical Embryology at the Nuffield Department of Women's and Reproductive Health, but they have also paid part of his tuition fees, with the Chevening Scholarship covering the rest.
Chuor hopes that when he eventually returns home after more than twenty-eight years away, the situation in Bor will have improved. He wants to share his story with the hope that those fellow South Sudanese in the same IDP camps inside South Sudan, refugee camps in Uganda, and all over the region, can see that they too can get to Oxford, even if it means waiting for twenty-eight years or more.