The Story of Denish Okello Oranga
Witnessing people being killed by the LRA as a child, Denish Okello Oranga was traumatized by the war in Northern Uganda. He graduates from Gulu University in 2014 and plans to be a role model secondary school teacher.
Denish Okello Oranga was among UMECS first cohort of students when we established the Northern Uganda Education Programme (NUEP) in 2005. NUEP was designed to directly serve highly vulnerable, under-served at-risk children and youth affected by war. Growing up during the war, most of his childhood was spent in a displacement camp. He witnessed mass violence on a regular basis and was lucky to survive the ongoing raids and massacres of the LRA. When he was 14 in 2005, we enrolled Denish in Kitgum High School for his secondary school O-level programme and at Sir Samuel Baker School for his A-levels. Denish is now in his third year at Gulu University under UMECS sponsorship as a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Education candidate. As part of his practicals, he taught Geography and History at Pader Central High School. Denish tells his story in his own words, and comments on the transformational power of education, the importance of peacebuilding, and the future impact of the book UMECS team and NUEP students are writing, and on his generation.
“I was born on 30th July 1990 at Lagwayi east sub-ward Pader district. I come from a family of eight siblings, five female and three males. I am the fourth child of my parents. My childhood can be described as ‘sad’ because I didn’t enjoy it. The LRA insurgency affected my childhood severely. War hit hard on my family. I witnessed people being killed. My uncle was killed. Witnessing the killings depressed me. I didn’t want to do anything.
“I have friends who were abducted. Some returned, some did not return. Those who returned and are becoming educated are doing well. Those who did not become educated are not doing well. They are drinking.
“I missed the ‘back in the day’ village experiences, the great dances, great hunting expeditions and great heroes of our land. My overall admiration of my parents’ generation was the way society was so united and solid. Everyone was a brother’s keeper.
“….as a teacher of history and geography, I want to interlude my lessons with some of the folklore as a way to engage and provoke intellectual discussions among my students. A classroom setting must be made interactive.
“My greatest motivation in becoming a teacher is that I shall become a young professional who would most likely be better understood by the younger generation. I want to become a role model and a great mentor to my students.
“In terms of my own school experience, I attribute my strength of passing my exams well to the regular mentorship I got from UMECS in addition to the financial support. It made me focused and self-disciplined. I want to return what I received to the youth who will be coming through school throughout my teaching career.
“War must be prevented at all levels….Peace is the foundation of development. If you wish to progress in any field whether spiritual, educational, or commercial you must have peace as the basis.
“All people are born good. Only the environment affects people.
“My take on my generation: we are energetic, ambitious and technology oriented. We are the youth voice, the pillar of our nation and ambassadors of peace and good will. With our education we must use it wisely and avoid the past mistakes committed by the generations before us.
‘Education truly transformed me making me confident, more aware and skilled…it has made me a role model and I now guide the youth from my community.
“More youth would be in school if their parents understood the value of education. Our book can play a great role in helping parents understand the transformational effects of education when they see a son of the village having been transformed like me. We need to mobilise the book in the villages once it is published. As a UMECS member and contributor to the book, I plan to be part of this endeavour.”
Denish Oranga Okello; Polycarp Oyet; Augustine Okot and Mushega Ben Amanya,
all UMECS students in their third year at Gulu University