It is early in the morning on 13 July 2019 and Maridi Health Science Institute (MHSI) is filled with proud parents, teachers, students, and guests.
Esther Angwech, a 28 years old mother of three together with other 68 graduates are excited as they wait to graduate. With a cap and a gown, Esther is preparing to open a new chapter in life.
Three years ago, Esther was informed about her successful scholarship to enroll at Maridi Health Science Institute, a step that would change her life completely.
At the age of 17, Esther got married. This meant she could not proceed to college. ‘‘I did not get an opportunity to continue with my studies. My life changed when I got this sponsorship to pursue a Diploma in registered Midwifery,” she said amid tears of joy.
The sponsorship was through generous support from Global Affairs Canada and Sweden through the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in South Sudan.
When she received the good news of the scholarship three years ago, Esther never imagined she could go back to school and graduate as the second-best student in her class.
“I have never thought of stepping in a class as a student. This training has definitely helped me learn a lot about my strengths. I have developed great skills and made wonderful memories in school. The girls in my community will be inspired by my achievement,’’ Esther proudly says.
She fondly remembers the first time she set foot in Maridi. Leaving behind her family was a challenge, but she was ready for the task ahead. Juggling between school and her family was sometimes overwhelming. Eager and confused, yet entirely driven, Esther found it hard sometimes to balance between family and school but she did not allow this to block her success. Her personal goals in life motivated her to stay in school.
“This is what I had chosen, it was a dream come true. I have never thought of giving up,’’ she says.
Today with a Certificate, and reflecting on the hard work she has put in, she does not regret anything but is proud of herself. “I have made my parents, friends, and family proud. I will go back to my community and tell girls they can still make it despite losing hope in life. I did it.’’
Esther says her performance was driven by hard work and determination. She credits her teachers, fellow students, and her family to help her navigate through her college to successfully complete her studies.
Her story is inspiring and despite all odds, Esther is an example of resilience and hope. She is thrilled about her accomplishment and likes to motivate other girls with her story. She is keen to encourage young girls whose dreams have been shattered because of early marriage and teenage pregnancies.
According to UNICEF, South Sudan has the seventh-highest prevalence rate of child marriage in the world, 52 % of girls are married before the 18th birthday.
‘’We have a great challenge as women in South Sudan especially on issues of early and teenage pregnancies. This factor should not hold the girls from achieving their goals. I encourage them to put their interest in education first as it is the only way they can empower themselves. It is never too late to go back to college and pursue your dreams.’’
The mother of three children noted that she has been empowered and her life will never be the same again, her dream was to serve her community as a midwife.
“I am happy because I will support my family financially and my community with the skills I acquired from the Institution. The decision to return to school is the most rewarding and best decision of my life, ’’ an elated Esther said. ‘’Thank you Amref for the scholarship.’’
Reports from WHO indicate that one physician serves 65,574 population while one midwife takes care of 39,088 population. With the severe shortage of Human Resources for Health (HRH) professionals, MHSI continues to train health workers.
Since its inception in 1998, a total of 830 health professionals have been trained in different health fields. It costs USD 2,907 (resident) or 1,667 (non-resident) to sponsor and help a girl like Esther access education which is crucial to their empowerment.
If you would like to support girls in South Sudan in training as health care professionals, please contact Amref Health Africa in South Sudan, Tel No. 211 920 515050; email [email protected].
Story by, Maureen Cherongis– Communication Professional at Amref Health Africa.