Kigali, Rwanda/Washington — At least 160 medical students who fled their homes and abandoned their studies due to the war in Sudan have found hope and a second chance to complete their education in Rwanda.
With the help of the Rwandan government, the students from the University of Medical Sciences and Technology in Khartoum will complete their studies at the University of Rwanda.
They said their campus in Khartoum has been overrun and turned into a military barracks.
“After the war, we thought about relocating students to different places where they can continue their education and finish their degrees. Fortunately enough, Rwanda was very receptive for the idea of relocating these students,” Dr. Suzan Homeida, a university deputy chairperson told VOA Central Africa Service’s reporters in Kigali.
“We are very thankful and grateful for the government of Rwanda, who opened the door for us and accepted our medical students,” she said.
The 27-year-old university had around 7,000 students across all faculties — 3,000 of them were medical students — before the war broke out in April. One hundred and sixty of the medical students relocated to Rwanda. Homeida said she’s thankful to those who made the relocation to Rwanda possible.
“During war, people flee looking for food and water. But Rwanda has provided a lot more, which is education,” said Homeida. “After the war is over, we’ll expect people to rebuild the country, and I think these medical students will be graduated, and they will go back to Sudan, and they will shoulder the responsibility of building Sudan and building the nation.”
Homeida said students have shown remarkable resilience and determination to overcome the obstacles they have faced. But she also expects a lot from them while in Rwanda.
“My message to the students is that this is a golden opportunity. They must work hard. They must learn the local culture. They must eat the local food. They must speak the language. They must be part of the community to get the most out of that experience,” she said.
Power of education
Despite the challenges, the Sudanese medical students have not lost sight of their goal. They say they are grateful for the opportunity to continue their studies and are working hard to become doctors. Some of them hope to return to Sudan to help rebuild their country’s health care system.
Yaseen Khalfalla is a fourth-year medical student. He said he is grateful for the opportunity to continue pursuing his medical degree, but still devastated by events taking place at home.
“I’d like to take a moment and say rest in peace to those who have lost their lives in our war. And hopefully, God willing, our country has peace again,” Khalfalla told VOA, adding that the relocation is something historic that the Sudanese medical community will never forget.
“It has a greater good message that Africa is one and will always be one.”
But Khalfalla also said the opportunity to relocate carries a unique weight for the small number of students selected to continue their studies abroad, as they’ll be expected to build the future of medicine in Sudan.
“I feel very grateful, but I feel there’s a lot of pressure on my shoulders. There’s a lot of responsibility, because we are the only batch in our country that’s been given an opportunity to resume their studies.”
Khalfalla’s feelings are echoed by fellow fourth-year student Azan Abdel Rahman Giammaa, who has been in Rwanda for only three weeks and had mixed feelings about going.
“At the beginning, I was afraid because I’m coming to a whole new country, I don’t know much about this country,” she said, adding that she expects to adapt. “I do expect to increase my clinical skills … including communication, surgical skills, and hopefully to learn how to expand my knowledge here in this country,” she said.
With only a year of studies remaining, Giammaa had begun to visualize her life after graduation — until war broke out.
“My dreams crashed literally in two hours,” she said. “I was devastated because of the war, and I had to leave the country.”
She, too, is thankful for Rwanda opening its doors.
“I really want to expand my knowledge. I want to really help this country, and hopefully after the war, I can take my knowledge that I gained here and take it back to Sudan to help them too,” she said. “Rwanda could give me this hope.”
Officials said the 160 Sudanese students will be in Rwanda for eight months.
“They have four months to finish their fourth year, and then we will conduct the exam here and straight away they will start their final year,” Homeida said. “The final year is all about practicing in the hospitals, seeing patients and helping in the management of patients with the supervision.”
This story originated in VOA’s Central Africa Service.