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South Sudan girl’s memorable day at State House

Something of a dream happened to Athok Abuoi Chol. She rubs her eyes literally like she has just woken up from a deep slumber.

She then straightens her green skirt, and leans comfortably on a pillar on the grounds of State House in Nairobi.

Her piercing eyes venturing into the unknown, she says softly: “I came to Kenya as an eight-year-old refugee. I wanted to go to school and get an education and I have got more than that in my seven years in this country.”

She has grown from a tiny girl who arrived in the country helpless and with fear written all over her face after suffering the ravages of war in her country.

Athok has been exposed to the extremes of life; she has endured painful experiences as a young girl but also had the pleasure to interact with the high and mighty in this country.

She arrived in Kenya by air, a dream mode of travel for many children her age. But that moment of joy and excitement was shortlived.

In a matter of hours, her new home would be a refugee camp. Seven years later, she would meet with President Uhuru Kenyatta, and his wife, First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, at State House and interact with them freely.

Athok was in the third batch of 51 students to visit State House Nairobi from June 22-26 for the Pupils Reward Scheme (Pures) mentorship programme hosted by the President and First Lady Margaret Kenyatta.


They were the best performing students across the 47 counties in the KCPE 2014 examinations.

“I have never tasted the finer things of life as I have done in the last one week I have been here,” says Athok, of her experience at State House.

Athok talks of her father and mother who are away in South Sudan with her other three siblings but does not want to divulge more details abour her family. Athok is 15 years old and the first born in a family of four children.

Her other family is in Turkana County. “Kakuma Refugee Camp is my other home. I live there with my aunt and cousins,” she says.

When she came to Kenya, she was enrolled for studies at Green Angels Academy where she did Class Three to Six, and later joined Angelina Jolie Girls’ Boarding at the Kakuma Camp where she studied for Class Seven and Eight.

Athok emerged the top pupil in Turkana County with a score of 418 marks in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination last year.

She says that at the refugee camp pupils are provided with learning materials and face no major hurdles in education, especially for those who are determined to build their lives.

“I was a pupil at the refugee camp and performed very well. I wish to encourage those facing tough times in their lives, that it does not matter your environment just work hard and you will go places,” said Athok.

She was admitted to Loreto High School-Matunda in the North Rift.


“I am working hard at school, and I hope to study medicine at the university. Eventually I hope to return to my country as a qualified neurosurgeon to offer services to my people in South Sudan. I want to do medicine because the country has few doctors and many people are in need of medical treatment,” said Athok.

Her favourite subjects are all the sciences – biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics.

Her secondary education is fully sponsored by one of the refugee agencies.

At State House when President Uhuru Kenyatta joined the pupils for breakfast, he was informed of the presence of a girl from South Sudan. Then the President walked over to where she was seated and greeted her.

He urged her to work hard in school in order to be in a position to serve her people in South Sudan.

“Work hard, your President (Salva Kiir) is coming tomorrow and I will inform him about you; your people back home will need your services once you complete your education,” said the President.

And when it was mentioned to First Lady Margaret Kenyatta that ‘Pures’ was now international, she asked, “What do you mean?”

To which the ‘Pures’ project manager Florence Awori replied: “We have gone across the borders and have a girl from South Sudan here with us.”

The First Lady was awestruck and clapped in appreciation of Athok.

This story first appeared on the Sunday Nation