During lunch on January 30, a “Lost Boy” of the Sudan, Panther Kuol, spoke to students in the Upper School about the Morneau Shepell Secondary School—a boarding school for girls in the Kakuma Refugee Camp. The school opened on January 13, 2014, for 170 female students living at the camp. The school was designed to be a boarding school so the girls can focus on their education instead of on the domestic responsibilities that girls are often forced to take in households, which detracts from their study time.
Kakuma is a small town in Turkan County of Northern Kenya. The camp was established in 1992 in response to the influx of refugees from Sudan, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia and other nationalities. The camp is run by the United National High Commission for Refugees (UHCR) and other non-governmental organizations, which provide basic needs such as food, shelter, clothes and primary education. Secondary school education is rare privilege for the lucky few refugees; those who complete high school have no hope of going to university.
The Morneau Shepell Secondary School is the result of The Kakuma Project, which was launched in 2010 shortly after five employees from Morneau Shepell returned from a tour of the UNHCR Kakuma Refugee Camp. In addition to the school, The Kakuma Project also funded the building of a Computer Technology Centre to help teach computer literacy to the residents of Kakuma.
Panther was six years old when he walked from his war-torn home of Sudan, through Ethiopia, until he made it to the Kakuma Refugee Camp, dodging bullets and soldiers to make a new home for himself. He survived, got an education and was awarded a scholarship to Simon Fraser University in Canada.
He was invited to speak to Havergal Upper School student by Clare Morneau as a way to start a Kakuma-Toronto Girls Education Partnership. The idea behind this partnership is to help motivate the students in Kakuma by connecting with them, sharing our stories and creating friendships.
“As a new citizen of Canada,” says Panther, “I feel obligated to talk about Kakuma to help others because I am fortunate to be here today.”