Excerpt from Spring 2012 Open Magazine
It takes a Global Village
How Abraham Nhial Wei arrived at AU from his hut in South Sudan
In the early hours of July 9, 2011, Abraham Nhial Wei was wide awake, by choice. Like millions in South Sudan, the 29-year-old feared that if he fell asleep, he would miss the moment when his country declared independence — or worse, that the declaration wouldn’t happen at all.
But that morning, it did, and tens of thousands of people rushed to the Dr. John Garang de Mabior mausoleum in the capital city of Juba. They ran to the site waving little paper flags and, once there, they formed drum circles and danced. Wei was among them.
Although he’s a journalist, he didn’t go to report. He went to experience it as a citizen who, at times, had to choose between his livelihood and his homeland.
A new journey with AU
Like South Sudan, Wei’s life was one wounded by prejudice and poverty, one that saw war, followed by peace, followed by war. But as the nation starts a new chapter, so is he, beginning with enrolment at Athabasca University.
From his hut in Juba, where there’s no running water, but there is a modem, he’s logging on and working to obtain a Bachelor of Professional Arts in Communication Studies.
That degree is a stepping stone into a world of countless opportunity,” he says. “If you look at great men, people who have transformed this country, like John Garang — he was a highly educated person. I believe the greatest asset that you can have as a human being is your brain.”
Twelve thousand kilometres away, Fran Holler opened an email from “the one and only” sub-Saharan applicant. “[Wei] had to go through the process of determining whether his post-secondary education in Africa would give him transfer credits,” says Holler, who is a portfolio mentor at AU. “In his case, it didn’t transfer. Fortunately, the learning he gained through his work experience could be translated into AU credits by producing a portfolio for Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PL AR).”
With help from Holler and other staff at AU’s Centre for Learning Accreditation, Wei compiled a portfolio using the e-Lab, a virtual lab space for AU students. He submitted an autobiography that left Holler speechless. The crux of his portfolio, however, was the learning statements — demonstrations of knowledge he claimed to have acquired through experience — along with evidence to support each knowledge claim. For example, he stated that he had collected, analyzed and edited information for organization heads and stakeholders. The evidence? His weekly reports for World Vision.
When Wei received his PL AR results in February 2012, he was overjoyed. Thirty-six credits is more than he expected, and it puts him more than a quarter of the way through his Communication Studies degree.
I can contribute to its development, because [of my] education— not like my father, praying that we can have rain so the crops can grow. See the difference?” he says.
Even if it doesn’t rain, I can still survive.”
The full story can be read in the Spring edition of Open Magazine (p. 22)