On March 4, 2016, Grades 6 to 8 students at Holy Name Catholic Elementary School in King City welcomed Educator, Author, and Philanthropist, Opiyo Oloya.
To welcome Oloya, the Holy Name Dance Club performed an African inspired rhythmic dance to kick-off the social justice assembly. Special thanks go to Dance Team Teacher-Advisor, Giuliana Tonellotto, and Teacher, Samantha Cano who is also the school's Social Justice Lead.
Oloya, who is the Superintendent of Education for the King City school, shared with students stories about his life growing up in Uganda, his experience coming to Canada as a refugee, and his interactions with various African communities and people stemming from his social justice work.
Oloya told students that he learned math as a child in school by drawing in the sand, and that he went on to become the student president at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. However, due to fraudulent elections in December 1980 that brought an illegitimate government to power that also tried to stamp out student activism at his university, he was forced to flee to Kenya for safety with three other students in March 1981. He recounted stories of how the group was twice confronted and threatened by government soldiers during the dangerous journey to Kenya, and how it was difficult to leave his family, friends, and city in which he grew up behind.
The Holy Name Catholic Elementary School students learned about their Superintendent's experience applying for refugee status in Canada, and how school groups in Canada helped to raise money to help sponsor him and the three other students. It was heartwarming to learn that he still keeps in touch with the other refugees he fled with, two of whom went on to become doctors, and one a university professor at Ryerson University in Toronto.
The King City students were fascinated by Oloya's stories about his recent social justice work and experiences in various African countries. They debated difficult subjects such as if child soldiers should be persecuted for their crimes, and how to address poverty in famine struck areas. Overall, the Holy Name students were very grateful to have Oloya share his stories with them, and were inspired to promote peace in our world.
Opiyo Oloya is a Superintendent of Education for the York Catholic District School Board and has been an educator for 24 years. He obtained his Masters of Education from the University of Ottawa, and received a PhD from York University. He founded the Karibuni African Music Program on Toronto's CIUT 89.5 FM, as well as the charity, International Resources for the Education of African Deaf and Blind Children (I Read ABC). Outside of his work at the York Catholic District School Board, he works as a researcher and observer with African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops, writes for international news publications, and has authored two books, Black Hawks Rising and Child to Soldier.