Life for refugees or displaced people often seems to come to a standstill and the world they once knew can disappear overnight, having to leave their home, family, work and much more behind.
The scholarship, covering 100 percent of fees, was awarded to five postgraduate students to study the MA Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies, Global MBA and the LLM.
This year’s cohort started their studies at different stages, most students are still in their first year. Odera Joel Katang is at the beginning of his studies, he shares his experiences and hopes for the future.
Tell me a bit about where you are from and your education up to starting the MA in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies with the University of London?
‘My family and I left South Sudan for Uganda in 2013 when the war broke out in the world’s youngest nation between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in Government and those in opposition (commonly referred to as SPLA - IO).’
‘There after we got registered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and settled in Kiryandongo Refugees Settlement Camp before starting the MA in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies with the University of London. Kiryandongo refugee camp happens to be the refugee camp where I reside to-date.’
‘I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Development Studies from Cavendish University Uganda (CUU) and have been yearning to develop my career in humanitarianism and development related courses. I even went as far visiting Makerere University and Uganda Martyrs University asking about similar courses. I found a course but had no money to finance the studies. Hence, I am very optimistic that my dream will become true with my MA programme at University of London.’
What was your reaction on being selected for this scholarship, and did you share the news with family or anyone else?
‘Yes of course! It was the happiest moment of my life. I first ran to my immediate supervisor and shared the good news with him. When I retired from work in the evening, I shared the sweet news with my wife, brother and dear mother. And lastly with our director at Refugee Law Project (RLP) Dr Chris Dolan because he circulated the information on the RLP staff email and encouraged us to try our luck with the scholarship.’
What motivated you to study this programme, and why did you choose the University of London?
‘I am passionate about humanitarian and development work and want to develop my skills and knowledge in this field to become a professional in the near future.
I grew up in the refugee camps. I had basic education and have survived on humanitarian aid till now without any stable source of income. I choose this kind of course to enable me to develop the necessary skills to help my fellow refugees in the future.
Apart from the scholarship, I picked the University of London because of the uniqueness of the programmes it offers, the flexibility to study, the quality of its academic staff and the mode of delivery for distance learning study. Meaning the university allows anyone to combine his or her studies with work or other commitments.’
Do you work while you study, and if you do, how do you fit your studies around your daily life?
‘When I had first joined the course, I was working for Refugee Law Project (RLP). When my contract with RLP came to an end, the organisation email address I used for my studies was blocked. I had to defer both the core modules for the year. Then with the help of tutor Nick Maple, he advised me to begin afresh this year when the issue of my email address was resolved. With my personal study time table, I’ve planned to set aside at least three hours per day for my studies.’
Do you use the forums on the Student Portal, do you join in, and is the platform helpful?
‘Yes, I do use the discussion forum on the Student Portal and join in the online discussions with my fellow students. The platform is useful because we are guided by a tutor and our tutor also encourages us to post our comments, arguments and critiques on it and comment on our fellow students’ works too. The module guides on the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) are useful because they help me to schedule my study time well.’