Owor Lino Ogora, MSc Education for SustainabilityOwor is using the skills learnt on his MSc to make a real difference to people whose lives have been torn apart by conflict in South Sudan and Uganda
Working in Uganda as the head of the Research and Documentation department at an organisation called the Justice and Reconciliation Project (JRP), Owor Lino Ogora saw an advert for LSBU’s MSc in Education for Sustainability (EfS) and believed it would be highly relevant for his career. “Having obtained my first degree from Uganda, I was determined to get a qualification from an overseas university.
LSBU happened to be the university offering the course advertised by the UK Commonwealth Scholarship Commission, and so I chose it,” he says. “I visited the website and was impressed with LSBU’s long history and tradition; that certainly influenced my final decision to choose it. Combining work at the JRP and study was very challenging, as my job involved working with people who had been displaced by the conflict in northern Uganda, but I somehow managed to juggle it successfully.
“The highlight of my course was my final year, when we held our week long face-to-face interaction with our tutors in Uganda. By then I had known all my classmates and many of the tutors for three years, through the Moodle online learning environment. It felt like one big family. I felt so sad that I would most probably not be seeing many of the students and tutors again, but we have kept in touch over the following years through social media.”
Working to protect civilians affected by conflict
Owor currently works as a civil affairs officer in the Civil Affairs Department of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). South Sudan is still plagued by civil war, with many inter-communal and inter-ethnic conflicts continuing to destabilise the nation. “As a civil affairs officer, most of my work contributes towards UNMISS’ mandate of protection of civilians. I work with communities to conduct workshops and events on conflict management and conflict resolution, and provide support for the development of locally owned strategies to combat inter-communal and migration-related conflicts.
I also help to provide support for the mapping of risks and threats to the civilian population in Lakes State, including early warning mechanisms. Alongside my work with the UN, I am also the founder of a local NGO in Uganda called the Foundation for Justice and Development Initiatives (FJDI). I helped to found this organisation immediately after completion of my MSc from LSBU. FJDI works with children, youth, women and communities to promote justice, development and economic recovery in northern Uganda.”
Loving the freedom his work gives him to interact with communities, and the opportunity it presents for solving real-life situations, Owor is really enjoying his current role. “I spend more than half of my time out in the communities collecting information or conducting conflict management events. This gives me the opportunity to meet the people and hear directly from them, and get a first-hand understanding of their needs.
Because of the volatile nature of inter-communal and inter-ethnic conflicts in South Sudan, there is no fixed formulae for responding to them. This means you have to come up with quick solutions in real time. I love this because it provides room for flexibility and creativity in problem solving. As the founder of the FJDI, I love the fact that I am able to contribute to the development of my country through programmes that are originally thought out and developed by me. I also enjoy the excitement created by being an entrepreneur.”
Equipped with the skills to make a difference
Given that the minimum qualification for becoming a civil affairs officer with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan is a Master’s Degree, Owor’s qualification from LSBU definitely played a big part in him securing the role. He also believes that an added advantage was that the degree was from an outstanding university such as LSBU.
“The EfS degree gave me a number of skills that I find extremely useful in my daily work. It was not only an opportunity to refresh, hone and improve my writing skills, but also an opportunity to pick up extra knowledge and skills that are helping me. I was able to significantly improve on my reflective writing, a skill I use today in reporting. I improved my research skills, a factor that helps me to collect much-needed information today.
Using the skills gained in the course unit on values and participation, I am able to engage with the community and develop participatory mechanisms that take into consideration their cultures. The course unit on processes and management of change, meanwhile, helps me to envision the change I desire from the communities in which I work, and to work towards attaining it with the cooperation of the community members. In a nutshell, I use the skills gained on a daily basis as I execute my work.
A platform for career progression
“The MSc is also helping me progress my career as well, as shortly after completing my degree in 2015, I gained a promotion to head the organisation in which I was working at the time. Most recently, in 2017, I secured this job, while as the founder of an NGO in Uganda I am using skills gained from my degree to develop a new programme on climate change. I also hope to build on this degree by pursuing a doctorate in the future.”
With Owor’s short- and long-term future looking positive does he have an advice for others considering LSBU as a place to study a postgraduate qualification? “Do not hesitate and have no second thoughts about studying at LSBU. It is one of the best and most internationally recognised universities in the world. Everywhere I go, I enjoy the looks of wonder and awe that fill people’s faces when I tell them I got my degree from LSBU. That degree will put you a class apart, so go for it!”