Editor’s Note: Abdel Aziz, a Darfuri refugee and headmaster of the Obama School in Djabal refugee camp in eastern Chad, shares his Enough Moment. He believes that he was given the gift of education and is responsible for passing this gift on to the next generation.
“Unto whom wisdom is given, he had indeed been blessed with a great treasure” is a verse found in Al-Baqarah, the second chapter of the Koran. This Koranic verse inspires and sustains Abdel Aziz, a Darfur refugee, in his current profession as teacher and headmaster of the Obama School in the Djabal refugee camp on the Chad-Sudan border, where hundreds of thousands of Darfurians fled after the genocide.
Abdel Aziz’s journey to headmaster of the Obama School is an unlikely one because he was not always set on a trajectory of becoming a teacher, let alone a headmaster of a school. In fact, when Abdel Aziz completed secondary school in 2004, he returned home to his village in West Darfur unsure about his future but determined to use his newly acquired skills to develop his hometown. However, shortly after he returned to his village of Furbaranga, the Janjaweed attacked his village, killing men, women, and children indiscriminately. Some of Abdel Aziz’s family members were killed, and others fled to displaced-persons camps in Sudan. Abdel Aziz and his immediate family walked over fifty miles to the Chadian border, where UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, moved them into a refugee camp further inside Chad.
For the past nine* years, the Djabal refugee camp has been home to Abdel Aziz and roughly 19,000 Darfuri refugees, most of whom are children. Since they have lived in the refugee camps for years now, with no prospect of returning home until there is peace, the children in the camps desperately need access to quality education or over time they will become severely undereducated relative to their peers in Sudan.
Abdel Aziz saw immediately that there were very few qualified teachers in the refugee camps. The very small number of qualified adults in the camps often fail to respond to the call to teach because of a lack of training and the low wages. Abdel Aziz notes that “most qualified adults in the camps have forgone the teaching profession and have opted to join NGOs or even rebel groups because of the low wages.”
For Abdel Aziz, the Koranic verse is significant because he believes he was given the gift of education (wisdom) in Darfur and is responsible for passing this gift on to the next generation. As a result, Abdel Aziz accepted the duty of not only being a teacher but also a headmaster. During each school year, Abdel Aziz is responsible for the welfare of more than 1,000* students in Grades 1 through 8 at Obama School.
Obama School is one of six primary schools in the Djabal refugee camp, all of which are being supported by the Darfur Dream Team’s Sister School’s Program. According to Abdel Aziz, his primary school is proudly named after President Obama because the “Darfuris feel a direct tie to America’s first African American president, and they are sure he will help the people of Darfur to find a solution to the crisis in Darfur.”
This profile and many others were compiled for The Enough Moment, a book by John Prendergast and Don Cheadle about engaged citizens – known and unknown, in the U.S. and abroad – who are mobilizing to help end genocide, rape, and the use of child soldiers in Africa. Visit the Enough Moment Wall to hear people describe their “Enough moment” and to upload a video, photo, or written testimonial of your own.
*These figures have been updated.
Check out a blog post from Darfur Dream Team’s last trip featuring Abdel Aziz’s work.
Photo: Abdel Aziz Adam (i-Act)