By Moses Mukitale, Communication Coordinator, West Nile Refugee Response
All it took was a little light.
15-year-old Lang Lok will be able to study into the night now.
Viola will be able to feel safer at night when she has to walk to the latrine.
Taban will be able to read in bed.
For refugees in Bidibidi, the world’s largest refugee settlement, solar lamps are offering security and hope to children who have experienced too much.
Lang Lok should have been in Grade 8 by now, if conflict didn’t force him to flee South Sudan last year. Now, he’s only in Grade 6. He arrived in northern Uganda separated from his parents. He hasn’t seen or heard from them since running from homeland. He now stays with a foster family in Bibibidi.
‘’In South Sudan I would always read from my bedroom at night and also do my homework. But here, we have just one plastic tent shared by 5 people. The only space you have is where you sleep and its always dark at night. I try to read from school but you cannot concentrate. It’s so noisy and very hot.’’ the 15-year-old narrates.
Lang Lok attends a school with 900 other students in Bidibidi.
‘’My class has over 146 pupils. It’s so congested, I can’t even hear what the teacher is saying some times. The desks are few, if you come late you seat on the ground.’’ Lang Lok explains.
A class room block at Lang Lok's school
Coming to Uganda means Lang Lok has had to go back to embrace a new curriculum that is different from that of South Sudan.
‘’I was in primary eight (Grade 8) preparing to seat for my final exams. But when I got here I was put in primary six (Grade 6) because I did not have my school report cards.’’ Lang Lok says.
Lang Lok standing outside his family house
Yet Lang Lok is determined to forge forward. He dreams of being a teacher himself one day, standing in front of a classroom and leading lessons. To reach that goal, Lang Lok knows he must do well in this new education system. A year from now, he will write his final primary school exams.
‘’With this solar lamp, I will be able to read my books at night and also do homework. I will wait after dinner when everyone has gone to sleep and then stay up for at least one hour every night’’ Lang Lok says.
Lang Lok reading at night, using a solar lamp provided by World Vision
Lang Lok and 427 other children recently received solar lamps from World Vision, a gift for children who are living in foster families, child-headed households or other vulnerable situations in Bidibidi.
Poni Viola is also one of the children who received a solar lamp. She too is in Grade 6 and thinking about next year’s exams and how the lamp will her move towards her goal of becoming a pilot. But the solar lamp serves more of a purpose than studying for her.
‘’Sometimes we fear to go to the toilets at night because of the darkness. Being a girl someone can easily rape you or do anything bad to you in the dark. This solar lamp is a big relief for me’’ Viola explains.
Taban, also 15, says the solar lamp will help him work towards his goal of becoming a doctor. He too will be able to study longer, as sun sets around 7pm every night here.
World Vision hopes to provide more solar lamps to children in northern Uganda’s refugee settlements. Already, the organization is providing clean water, distributing food, coordinating child protection services, running child friendly spaces and early learning centres and running income-generation programs for the more than 1 million refugees from South Sudan who have recently arrived in northern Uganda since 2013.