“We learned English at a young age, and in this language they taught us that Africa and Africans are poor. The fact is that Africa is actually a rich place, and it was in Turkish that I learned that. ”
Jamil is only one of Türkiye Scholarships students who came to our country from Uganda. For him, coming to Turkey was a dream come true.
He was introduced to Turkey through a documentary film shown at the 3rd International Students Graduation Ceremony. Jamil’s story about how he became a student of Türkiye Scholarships drew a lot of attention. The film that was based on a true story gained popularity in a short time. What’s more, there was a nice surprise at the end.
Jamil lived with his family in a poor village in Uganda, and he could not afford to go to college due to their financial difficulties. But his life was about to change one day when he saw the poster of Türkiye Scholarships on the building wall of the Turkish Embassy in Kampala, the capital of Uganda.
“My name is Jamil Mwanja and I am 20 years old. My mother is a seamstress, my father is a woodcutter, and we are seven siblings in our family. I lived in the Wantunda village of Uganda’s Jinja city. After I finished high-school, my biggest dream was to go to university. But it was almost impossible, because we lived in a very poor place where everything was very difficult.”
Jamil says that, in spite of all these challenges, his beautiful and inspiring story began when it seemed the least possible.
Not being able to afford to go to college, Jamil started teaching children from his village to read and write. One day, he goes to the country’s capital Kampala to buy books and notebooks for his students, and sees a poster of Türkiye Scholarships. Jamil narrates his thrill: “Suddenly I was filled with great excitement. I wrote the e-mail from the poster on my hand, and ran to an internet café. I wrote my application and left my phone number. I prayed to God a lot for the opportunity to go to Turkey. Dear God, please give me a chance, I really want to go to Turkey. I prayed like this every day after each Salah prayer.” Jamil’s prayers were accepted. He got invited to a Türkiye Scholarships interview. The interview went well, but he did not know whether he had passed. He was told that he would get a response via e mail. However, there was a small problem.
“There was no internet in my village, and the closest place with internet was hours away. I really needed to solve this problem, as this was the biggest opportunity of my life. I had to go to the city to check my e-mails every weekend. First time, I went on foot, and it took me 6 hours. The e-mail I was waiting for hadn’t come yet. I was exhausted and needed to find a solution to this. The week after, I rented a motorcycle to go to the city, but I still hadn’t received the e-mail, and I had no more money left for the motorcycle. So, I decided to borrow a friend’s bike, but I had another problem; I did not know how to ride it. I had to learn how to ride a bike to be able to come to Turkey. I learned it in a day, and that week when I went to the city by bike, the e-mail had arrived.” Jamil had won a Türkiye Scholarship. He was placed to Kayseri Erciyes University, Department of Economics. “The feeling was incredible. I was extremely happy. I jumped on the bike and rode it non-stop all the way to home; it was as if I were flying. I shared this great news with my family, and they were as delighted as I was.”
Jamil’s journey to Turkey was about to start. “I said goodbye to my mother and got on the plane to Turkey. The trip took 8 hours, but I was so excited that I could not sleep for even a minute. When I arrived to Kayseri, I was welcomed and taken to my dormitory. In the next few days, I enrolled in university, got my insurance covered, and started getting my scholarship.”
Having settled down in Kayseri, Jamil started taking Turkish lessons. For him, learning Turkish was much more than just learning a new language. “We learned English at a young age, and in this language they taught us that Africa and Africans are poor. The fact is that Africa is actually a rich place, and it was in Turkish that I learned that. My goal is to become a useful person for my country as well as for other Muslim countries when I graduate.”
Although it has been only 7 months since Jamil came to Kayseri, he can speak Turkish quite well. He explains his interest in Turkey and Turkish saying, “It is not just me. Youth that came here from all around the world are learning Turkish. For example, we love Âşık Veysel or Mehmet Akif Ersoy. I like one of his poems quite a lot; I cannot applaud tyranny, I can never love a tyrant, I cannot curse the past for the sake of what’s to come. These words appeal to me a lot. I am very happy in Turkey.”
“Everyone was moved by the gift of Jamil’s mother”
“As I was saying goodbye to my mother, she told me to be a person worthy of those who will look after me where I go. She also asked me to convey her eternal gratitude to those who opened their hearts for me. She said, I am sending my heart with you, and this gift.”
The short documentary film about Jamil’s story was shown at the 3rd International Students Graduation Ceremony. After the film, Jamil got up on the stage with his mother’s gift prepared with love and presented it to the Deputy Prime Minister Prof. Dr. Emrullah İşler. When Mr. İşler opened the gift that was wrapped in newspaper, it turned out to be a Turkish flag handmade from three pieces of cloth sewn together.
“I have never felt lonely in Kayseri”
Jamil continues with his Turkish lessons in Kayseri. He points out that he has been very happy since the day he came to Turkey, and that people in Kayseri are very friendly and hospitable towards foreigners. “I have never felt lonely in Kayseri, because people of Kayseri have always been good to me and helped me. I haven’t had a single bad experience.” He notes that he’s got a lot of feedback since the documentary about his story became a hit. “After the documentary was published, I got a lot of positive and a few negative responses, but overall, my life got better. Most of those who watch it encourage me. They appreciate my efforts and tell me not to give up, and to continue being successful. I have received a couple of negative responses, but I don’t mind them much.”
“I saw my first snowfall in Kayseri”
“The most interesting event I encountered in Kayseri happened during winter. I had never seen snow before. When I first saw it, I thought it was cotton, so I took some and tasted it, and that was when I realized it was actually ice. In school, I would go out on each break to play in the snow with friends. Later, we went to Erciyes Mountain to ski. I used to fall a lot, but I finally managed to learn how to do it.”
“In Turkey, the spiritual ambiance of the month of Ramadan is very beautiful”
“In Turkey, the spiritual ambiance of the month of Ramadan is very beautiful. In Uganda, we usually fast for 13 hours, so at first, it was somewhat hard for me here, but I got used to it. I usually go to Iftar tents to break my fast. The ambiance in the tents is very nice. I get to break the fast with my Muslim brothers and sisters. In Uganda, Ramadans are very similar, the only difference is that we don’t have many Iftar tents.”
“I want to be useful to my country and other Muslims”
I want to do useful work for my country and other Muslims. When I graduate from university, I want to help other children from villages and orphans in my country receive education. God willing, I want to open a school for them, and help them in any way I can. And I also want to teach Turkish to other people. I want to be like Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – a thoughtful person who will contribute to his country’s development in the future.
Watch the documentary here: http://www.youtube.com/user/basbakanlikytb
Uganda, Capital: Kampala, Population: 35,000,000