My name is Hannah Nadapal. I am 22 years old and the only local Toposa girl from our village of Kuron who is currently attending the second-year level in Matara Secondary School (a school sponsored by Kuron Peace Village). My mother’s name is Elizabeth Kuron, and my father, who passed away, was called Merii. We are five boys and three girls in our family. I am the second youngest and only the second to attend school. My elder brother, Joseph, graduated from secondary school and is now working with a non-governmental organization called ACROSS, based in Nanyangachor.
In 2010 I was enrolled in the nursery in Kuron. I started primary 1 in 2013. I kept at my studies diligently and eventually earned high marks. My teachers said my English was the best in the class. Those teachers told me to be a good girl and study hard. They wanted me to make something of myself. I did miss my mother and family when I was in school, but I got used to it and put my head down to study.
My mother always told me that I was clever and should get a good education. She said marriage can wait, but first you must learn. However, when I was very young studying in primary 6, a boy in primary 8 got me pregnant. I was too young to understand the consequences. I ended up giving birth to two boys by this man. I have left him because he became a drunkard. My brothers were angry with me because we had to pay back the cows which they had received for my marriage dowry. That was a bad time in my life, and I don’t like to talk about it.
However, I was determined to succeed, and I returned to primary school classes after a few years. My mother has been very supportive and takes care of my children while I study. My mother is not a shy woman. She is strong and able to stand up to others. She wants the best for all her children. Even my brothers now agree and support me in my studies.
In 2013 I was part of the Kuron Theater Group. It was exciting, and we performed plays and acts for peace. We even got to travel to Kapoeta and Lokichogio in Kenya. We were well known at that time. It was my first time to travel, and I found those places so big and so interesting. I discovered that the Turkana language has so many words that are the same as Toposa. They also dressed differently and had some different customs. But we got along fine.
One day some youth came to the Peace Academy (at that time it was called Youth Academy), and they took all of our theater clothes and belongings. I think they were poor and needed clothing. I forgive them, but that was really the end of our theater group.
In 2019 for the primary final exam, I got 359 out of 500 points and passed to secondary school. I was hired by the BONGA program to work with young girls, and for a short time to distribute nutritional supplements to pregnant and nursing mothers. One thing I discussed with the young Toposa girls was the issue of early marriage and having children — how it changes your life.
I am now in secondary school and have many friends. Biology is my favorite subject, but I also do well in English. I am Catholic and I like to participate in the choir singing joyful songs to God. Of course, some of the boys are jealous of me because I get higher marks. You know in our culture, the men must always be over the women. So I think they get angry and say some bad words to me. But I am like my mother, strong and determined. I will continue to study and do my best.
I am praying hard that more classrooms can be built here in Matara Secondary School as I really like it here and want to finish my secondary education. I am interested in nursing. I have spoken with the nurses and midwives here in the primary health center, and they have encouraged me to do my best and maybe someday I will get the chance to become a nurse. My wish is to return here and help my people.
This first-person account is based on several interviews conducted by Gabe Hurrish with Hannah Nadapal.