Man walked 4000km across Africa to get education at UKZN
An Eritrean man who walked 4 000km from his home country so he could study at UKZN has graduated with a Masters Degree in Geography.
Not even the danger of being kidnapped or robbed at the various borders he crossed deterred Mr Yibrah Ghebreyohannes.
‘I crossed more than five countries, and travelled for more than 4000 km on foot just to secure an education in South Africa because I believe education is the only weapon that helps us to fight against all odds,' said Mr Ghebreyohannes.
‘When I applied for asylum, the government of South Africa granted me refugee status that allowed me to work and study.
‘Despite the challenges that existed, I decided to pursue my studying. The first institution I accessed was UKZN and in 2011, I pursued an honours degree. Despite numerous challenges, I managed to finish my degree in 2012.’
Ghebreyohannes fled the country of his birth in 2010 because of the country’s border war with Ethiopia. He had been a geography teacher at a high school in Eritrea and later, a geography instructor at a College.
‘Since my childhood, my favourite subject was geography. I used to dream about being a geographer. To me geography is the mother of all subjects and indeed it is the foundation of modern science.
‘The environment and nature are vast and so is the laboratory of geography. The more we travel, the more we know and discover new things. So, inspecting natural phenomena motivated me to study geography.'
Ghebreyohannes’s thesis was entitled: Displacement and Adjustment: Ethiopian Environmental Migrants in Durban, South Africa.
‘People migrate or are forced to move due to many factors. The political, social and economical factors have been analysed as the main reasons for migration. However, global climate change is becoming one of the main threatening issues on human livelihood,' he said.
'Above all, the UNHCR and almost all countries do not recognise migrants displaced by environmental change. So my aim was to raise this issue so that the international community reconsiders the old refugee definition.’
Ghebreyohannes thanked his supervisor, Professor Brij Maharaj. ‘The person who encouraged and guided me to be able to graduate today is my supervisor. His guidance was not only to supervise but to guide me like his son. On this occasion I would like to thank him for believing in me.'
He advised other students that while there was no smooth path in life, ‘a victory built without challenges is like a seed growing under a shadow.
‘Life is made up of challenges. However, we need to believe that every single step in our daily life should have a purpose and meaning in our life journey. I believe education is the only weapon that helps us to fight against all odds,’ he concluded.