Keribino holds on to 52-year-old childhood dream of saving lives

Keribino holds on to 52-year-old childhood dream of saving lives
Keribino Mangong Deng, 52 and a is a senior two student.

Keribino Mangong Deng has, in his entire life, held firmly to a childhood dream of becoming a doctor and saving lives. Now nearing his sunset years, his academic ambitions have never withered, and he is determined to achieve them even when surrounded by schoolmates old enough to be his children.

Keribino, 52, represents millions of people who have had their academic dreams dashed due to a lack of school fees, but whose desire for success is too strong to let go.

“There’s no age limit in education… “I will continue with my studies until I finish,” he says.

He is currently a student at Gideon Seed High School, one of the privately owned schools in Juba.

Even though he has renewed his dream, his ambition of gracing the hospital walls still faces challenges. For instance, he goes to Manyiel’s store every evening – a grocery store a few metres away from his residence to study in the light. With cars honking and motorcycles crisscrossing the roads, concentration can be difficult, but none of these obstacles will put an end to his dream; he has used the light because that lamp would cost an arm and a leg.

“Here, it is always noisy, but I do manage to grasp something before going to bed. “It’s better here than going to bed without doing anything,” he says.

Dream starts

Keribino started his studies back in 1994 in Natinga, Eastern Equatoria, and later dropped out of school due to illness. After slightly recovering from sickness, he relocated to Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, where he continued with his studies up to class seven.  But even after reaching that level in his education, Keribino would stay out of school for the next 17 years. Sickness and a lack of funds kept him from attending school, but his dream of becoming a doctor remained intact. Although delayed.

“I fell sick in 2002. “When I felt better, I didn’t have the resources to resume my education, so I spent 17 years at home and rejoined in 2019,” he narrates.

But, when he was out of school for 17 years, Keribino decided to do something else: he trained as a teacher at Don Bosco in Kakuma Refugee Camp. This enabled him to teach at a school in New Cush after recovering from his sickness. His stay was, however, short-lived because of a relapse in his health condition.

“I was trying to help the kids by giving them the knowledge I learned because there were not many teachers in those days,” he says of his stint as a teacher.

Besides trying to earn money from teaching, Keribino was also serving in the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, where he became a member of the “Wounded Heroes.”

In 2006, after he fully recovered, he had to open another chapter in his life. He got married to a Kenyan woman, with whom they had two children—a boy and a girl.

But despite imparting knowledge to the children, Keribino’s insatiable appetite for further education and venturing into the medical field as a doctor never died.

Lost love of his life

But in 2021 and after 15 years of union, the unthinkable happened. Keribino lost his partner to sickness. He was heartbroken. “I tragically lost my wife in 2021. This had a significant effect on me. I couldn’t come to terms with this tragedy.

“I was demoralized,” he says as he fights back tears.

Since the day he lost his wife, he has never been the same. He is constantly torn because he needs his children around him but cannot afford to bring them here because dowry must be settled before his in-laws can release the children.

Although the two children stay with the in-laws, he supports them whenever he gets some money.

“Now I need to support these children because I am their father, their mother is no longer alive. They look up to me. “But sometimes, because of the situation in this country, I don’t really do much,” he laments.

He depends on the money wired from the “Wounded Heroes” to pay his fees and support his children, and this comes with a lot of stress. This money can come after months of forcing him to seek help from his close family members.

“I sometimes find assistance from my cousin. But for my children, I struggle to pay for it, even when I don’t have anything with me.”

He would love to have his children in South Sudan. But because of his financial situation, he thinks that it would take years to see them here. His children and their grandparents often invite him to Kenya.

“I can’t go without anything. I need some money,” he says.

Before his wife tragically passed away, his sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law would visit him in Kapoeta.

Keribino’s biggest challenge in his quest to bring his children to South Sudan is that he does not own any structure. He has no house anywhere. But one generous man, Dut Malon, has given him a place to sleep in his clinic. He sometimes shares this place with patients when many of them are admitted.

“I only wonder, if I manage to bring my children to South Sudan today, where would I stay with them? Maybe in the same clinic,” he said uncertainly, as he shook his head rigorously.

He is unfazed by the challenges that dot his life. He returned to school in 2019 and passed the South Sudan Certificate for Primary School. He is in form two (senior two) now, and hopes to finish in 2024. He will then pursue his lifelong dream of attending medical school.