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Catholic Foundation Awarding Scholarships to Medical Students in South Sudan Universities

Some beneficiaries of the scholarships offered by Charity Foundation for African Catholic Mission at the University of Juba on 6 April 2021

The Charity Foundation for African Catholic Mission, which was set up in memory of the late Salesian Cleric, Fr. John Tae Seok Lee, has awarded scholarships to medical students studying in the South Sudanese public universities.

A native of South Korea, the late Fr. Lee who had served as an army medical surgeon before joining the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) was sent to South Sudan in June 2001. His nine-year apostolate at Don Bosco Tonj Parish of the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek left a lasting mark on the South Sudanese through his services as a Priest, a medical doctor, an educationist, and an accomplished musician, among other professional titles.

He was diagnosed with late-stage colorectal cancer and succumbed to the disease on 14 January 2010 at St. Mary’s hospital in Seoul aged 47, leaving behind a legacy of schools, wells, farm products, medical clinic, brass band, liturgical celebrations, and unwavering service to the sick in the community.

Speaking to ACI Africa on the sideline of the launch of the scholarship awards at the University of Juba Tuesday, April 6, Kim Kee Choon, the Country Director of the foundation said, “We are supporting students who want to become medical doctors like our founder, the late Dr. John Lee Tae Seok.”

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He added, “We have offered this scholarship to 40 medical students who were students of Don Bosco, and whom the late Fr. John Lee Tae Seok taught between 2001 up to 2009.” 

In the April 6 interview with ACI Africa, the Korean-born Country Director revealed that there are 54 former students of the late SDB Cleric that the foundation has been committed to helping, adding that 50 of these students are enrolled in universities.

Two students have finished their studies in Korean universities while the other two are presently doing their internship in Ethiopia, Mr. Choon said.

The compatriot of the late Salesian Cleric further said, “All 50 medical students are from Tonj but we dropped 10 of them from this scholarship award because they did not meet the criteria of good academic performance. We have picked 40 students.”

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The students on the scholarship program are pursuing their studies in Upper Nile University, Bhar el Ghazal University, and Juba University, he told ACI Africa April 6.

“The students given these scholarships are in different levels of study; some are in first year, others in second, third and fourth year,” Mr. Choon said, and added, “14 students are from Bhar el Ghazal University, two from Upper Nile University and 24 students from the University of Juba.”

He explained that the medical students are given a monthly stipend to cater for their needs including internet, transport, accommodation and tuition.

He expressed optimism that the students will graduate and become doctors in South Sudan.

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Expressing excitement on clinching the Award, Nelson Wol, a fourth-year medical student in Juba University said, “Before Fr. John Lee died, he promised that he would support the people of Tonj and it is through this promise that I got a scholarship today.”  

“Fr. John Lee was our father in the Church, our doctor in the hospital, a teacher of mathematics in school and a music teacher in the choir,” Wol recalled.

Another awardee, Jiel Malek Agei from Juba University expressed gratitude, saying, “I would love to proceed for Masters if this scholarship allows me to continue studying. Now I still don’t know how long it will last.”

Meanwhile, the Vice Chancellor of Juba University, Prof. John Akec has promised to name the Medical Hall at the institution after Fr. John Lee, the South Korean Salesian Cleric whose ministry among the inhabitants of Don Bosco Tonj mission of Rumbek Diocese has been acknowledged with appreciation.