KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Speak no Hebrew.
That's what Ugandan teachers repeatedly tell the South Sudanese teenagers transplanted here from Israel. But Hebrew is what they speak when they are not being watched; it's the language they grew up with as migrants.
Some 70 South Sudanese teenagers now call Kampala their home after they were deported from — or voluntarily left — Israel, which is trying to rid itself of tens of thousands of African migrants. In recent years Africans have poured into Israel, causing friction with locals and alarming some authorities who say Israel's Jewish character is threatened by the presence of the Africans.
After leaving Israel the teenagers spent a few months in their home country, South Sudan, where they struggled because of the threat of hunger, tropical diseases and the country's political tensions. They later were relocated to Uganda thanks mainly to the work of an Israeli activist who has criticized his country's policy toward African migrants as Israel's "moment of shame."
The 44-year-old activist, Rami Gudovitch, entered the lives of the teenagers as both father figure and friend, first by trying to prevent their impending deportations from Israel and then by finding families willing to sponsor their education in Africa. In December 2012 he put a group of them on a bus leaving the South Sudanese capital of Juba for Kampala, where the children hoped to return to school and start afresh as refugees. Many of those now enrolled at a private boarding school in Kampala have Israeli benefactors who pay their tuition of about $1,000, charity for which they are grateful but which doesn't cancel the memory of the country they called home for much of their life.
They must adjust to a different culture and school system, often without the help of family. Many students who should be one or two years away from taking college-entrance examinations are now stuck in lower grade school because their English is not adequate, a serious consequence of the transition from Israel, where they were instructed in Hebrew.
"When they first came here they had a language barrier," said Alex Gumisiriza, a science teacher who heads academic programs at Trinity School. "But now they are catching up."
Read more: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/after-israel-african-kids-start-afresh-uganda