Akuc Deng, who founded Panwakema in 2012, is currently studying Education at the University of South Australia. However, her road to university is not like the one that most people take. This is Akuc’s story, about her journey to Australia, and how her history nourished her desire to help the children in her homeland.
I was born in South Sudan, March 1992. When I was seven years old, my family escaped constant killings between North and South Sudan. We made it to Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, and were there for nearly six years before we received approval to move to Australia.
We came to Adelaide because some of our relatives already lived here. They helped us with the process of coming over and settling in Adelaide; our relatives found us a house, and we were able to go straight there when we arrived from Kenya. In August 2004 we were granted a visa and were able to stay permanently in Australia.
I was twelve years old when we arrived. I didn’t speak any English; I just knew some basic words, like mother, father, son, girl, dog, etc. During primary school in South Sudan, my schooling was interrupted constantly by war. We moved around a lot, and I never got the chance to complete my early education.
In Australia, I was placed in year five, at Ingle Farm Primary School. It was very challenging. I had to try and meet the standards of my year level, but it was very difficult. Everything was difficult. There were a few Africans there, which helped, but still, it was very hard. By 2006, I was already in high school at St. Ignatius College, Athelstone, and it got more difficult.
However, I graduated year 12 and was able to start studying teaching at the University of South Australia! I decided to study teaching because, first of all, I always had a motivation and love for teaching. My father had been a teacher since before I was born, and continued teaching while we were in the refugee camp, and he inspired me from a young age. I love to share my knowledge. Most of all, I feel very privileged and blessed to have had the opportunity to be educated, so want to share the importance and beauty of education by becoming an educator myself, and to help educate those in third world countries – particularly my birth country, South Sudan.
Like everyone else, I have a story. A story that made me who I am today, which changed the way I view life, the world and everyone around me. I’ll be turning 22 soon, and the way I decided to spend my coming years helping those in need. I especially want to help children, because I was once in their position, survived it, and was left with unforgettable memories and scars. However, I am still grateful to God because without those experiences I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I was born and raised in a war that has been going on for nearly 50 years. I have witnessed people die and murder. How I survived it, God only knows, and for that I want to give back and make a difference to those who are greatly affected. Orphans, widows and young girls are the most disadvantaged in South Sudan, and they are who I want to help the most.
My long term goals for Pan South Sudan are to maintain a stable and constant support for our students. I also hope to be able to extend this support to other states in South Sudan, outside Warrap State. I also wish to gain and form a stronger relationship with my alma mater, St Ignatius – I hope that the two schools can develop a relationship, and work together!