“Life was hard (in Uganda) but Australian life is better because you get more freedom.”
Congo and Uganda are just two countries within central Africa that are subject to war, employment scarcity, below average wages and a range of socio-economic issues.
Having been born in Congo, Jean Paul Nani, 20, knows this all too well. Mr Nani and his family fled Congo and spent more than seven years in a Ugandan refugee camp to escape the dangers of war. They struggled with all the issues that strike Ugandan families – lack of education, lack of food and a constant sense of danger.
Mr Nani arrived in Australia in 2009 when he was 14.
“Compared to Uganda, life in Australia is easier,” Mr Nani explains.
“Life was hard (in Uganda) but Australian life is better because you get more freedom.
“[In Uganda] you don’t feel safe, all you feel is fear, you don’t feel safe at all.”
Mr Nani’s parents could not afford to send him to school. There was very little work available and while they looked for work he would have to stay home. There was simply not enough money to pay the expensive school fees.
“Education in Uganda is hard because of fees. If you pay them of course you can go, so I had to stay home. My parents looked for work so they could get money to send me to school,” Mr Nani recalls.
Mr Nani completed his HSC last year and will look at furthering his education in the near future. Even his parents have now taken advantage of the opportunities in Australia, with both completing courses at TAFE.
“Here it is different because my parents of course they work and they still go to school … they do courses at TAFE but in Africa of course my parents didn’t go to school, they just focused on jobs to get money for their kids,” he explained.
While Mr Nani cannot recall details about the process involved in moving to Australia he does remember being assisted by UNHCR. Once in Sydney Mr Nani and his family had a case worker assist them in the settling process.
“We had a case worker help us get Centrelink and Medicare. It wasn’t that hard for us because we had someone,” said Mr Nani.
“But I was scared because I didn’t know anybody and I didn’t speak English that well.
“Before I went to high school there was an English centre that I attended first to improve my English skills, my writing skills and my reading skills and then after that I went to high school.”
Mr Nani is grateful for the freedom and opportunities available to him in Australia and is now contemplating higher education, something that a boy from Congo could once only dream of. – Rebecca Hopper and Sam Jenkins
Top Photo supplied