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Akuol’s journey is no longer to find water, but a pathway into law

Wednesday 15 December 2021

Akoul Garang’s focus on success did not waver as she completed her SACE at the same time as learning a new language in a new country.

Cicilia Begbia

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Born in South Sudan, Akuol Garang’s family moved to Kenya as refugees when she was 9 years old, and six years later her family arrived in Australia. 

For Akuol and her family, the best part about moving to Australia was the running water in their home.

“It was a relief to come to Australia because we have a water tap in the house. Everything was very hard back home, and it is really easy now. So, I can just focus on school. 

Initially, Akuol’s move to St Dominic’s in year 10 was difficult as the classes were all taught in English, a language she had only been learning for a couple of years.

“Everyone talked so fast, my English wasn’t that good, and it was hard to understand everyone. I started in the lowest English class at the Adelaide Secondary School of English, but I did get to the highest one before I moved to St Dom’s. 

“My wonderful friends would tell me what the teacher was talking about, so it wasn’t that bad.

There were more challenges for Akuol to overcome than just becoming proficient in another language.

“I didn’t even know how to use the technology like the other students did. I lost a ten-page assignment because I didn’t know how to save my work properly and had to stay up all night to finish it.

With the right support from her teachers, Akuol became a thriving learner.

“I’d heard about the SACE in year 10 and I’d gotten my SACE number, but I didn’t know if I should do some of the subjects because I hadn’t studied them before. I spoke to my teachers and they really encouraged me, and said that yes, I would be able to do them.

“With my teachers help, I am very happy with my grades. St Dom’s brought in a retired teacher to help me out. Instead of doing French, I would go to the library and this teacher helped me with reading and writing, proof reading, and providing suggestions. If I wanted to say something clearly then the teacher would help me so that others would understand what I was trying to say.

Now Akuol has her future mapped out.

“Every day, my life has been amazing here in Australia. Before we moved here, Kenya wasn’t that good because we were living in a refugee camp. It was full of people from many different countries all waiting there. It was hard to go to school and everyone was just doing their own thing. Akuol is on track to complete her SACE this year, but she isn’t stopping there. With dreams of pursuing a law career, she is working towards getting a high ATAR score.

“My teachers have helped me work out a pathway to get into law and it would be my dream to make that happen. 

Akuol’s advice to SACE students is to keep persisting, despite the challenges.

“If you try harder, then things will be better than expected.”