As a young boy growing up in war-torn Sudan, Manyher Makuendit never expected to go to school, let alone attend university. Today the father of four graduated with a Bachelor of Criminology degree from the University of New England, the culmination of years of hard work and a determination to improve himself.
Manyher left Sudan in 2000, spending several years in refugee camps in neighbouring Kenya and in Nairobi before migrating to Australia in 2003. After studying English in Sydney and completing a Tertiary Preparation Course at TAFE, Manyher began his studies in criminology at UNE.
“It was very difficult when I first started,” he said. “I found the language hard, and criminology was very challenging. But my lecturers helped me, and now I am very happy to be receiving my degree.”
Manyher (pictured here) now has an offer to study for a Bachelor of Laws degree at UNE, which he hopes to take up next year. He said he would use his qualifications to become an “ambassador” between the Sudanese community in Australia and the Australian justice system.
“Since coming to Australia, I have seen a lot of Sudanese kids getting into trouble with the Australian law,” he said. “I want to work with these kids and help them to understand their rights and responsibilities under Australian law.
“I also want to help the Australian justice system to understand these kids. Many of them have been traumatised. They come from families who have never had access to any education. It is difficult for children to succeed at school when no one can help them with their homework, since their parents never went to school themselves.”
Manyher said he was grateful to his lecturers, course coordinators and first-year advisers at UNE, who had all supported him during his studies. “They were all so helpful to me, especially when I was starting out and struggling with my studies,” he said.
The Armidale community had also been a great source of encouragement. “When someone asks what you’re doing and you tell them,” he explained, “they say: ‘Just put in an effort; everything is possible.’”
One of Manyher’s lecturers, Dr Elaine Barclay, said she was impressed by the tremendous commitment Manyher had shown to his studies in the face of numerous obstacles.
“I have the deepest admiration for any student who attempts a university degree when English is their second language,” Dr Barclay said. “Persistence is everything, and it was inspiring to watch Manyher’s writing improve over time – and subsequently his marks. He should be very proud of his achievements as he graduates today.
“Wherever his criminology degree takes him, I am sure Manyher will continue to inspire and assist others – particularly other young people from Sudan.”
Today’s ceremony, the second of UNE’s two Spring Graduation ceremonies for 2012, was for people graduating from within the University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
THE PHOTOGRAPH of Manyher Makuendit displayed here expands to include UNE’s Professor John Scott.