Kenyan Student Beats 4,000 Others to Win Ksh14.7 Million Global Award

A photo of Nhial Deng, who has won the Global Student Prize Award 2023.
A photo of Nhial Deng, who has won the Global Student Prize Award 2023.

A 24-year-old student living at the Kakuma Refugee camp in Kenya has been named the winner of the Global Student Prize for his efforts in transforming the lives of other refugees at the camp.

Nhial Deng, born in South Sudan and moved to Kenya when he was 11 years old, was selected from over 4,000 nominations and applications from 122 countries around the world. The student accepted the award in New York during the United Nations General Assembly week. 

In particular, Deng was praised for empowering over 20,000 refugees in the Kakuma refugee camp through peace building, education and entrepreneurship programs and creating a safe space for the youth to heal from their trauma endured in their native countries.

According to Heather Hatlo Porter, Chief Communications Officer at, the organisation behind the Global Student Prize, Deng's efforts are a good example that should give hope to the youth that they can break all barriers and achieve anything in life.

A photo of Nhial Deng, who has won the Global Student Prize Award 2023.
A photo of Nhial Deng, who has won the Global Student Prize Award 2023.

“I am deeply honored to extend my heartfelt congratulations to Nhial Deng on winning the Global Student Prize 2023. Nhial has overcome unimaginable adversity to keep advocating for a better future, not just for himself, but for thousands like him. In times of crisis, we need innovation and resilience, and Nhial’s commitment to tackling the global refugee crisis is truly inspirational," she said.

“Nhial’s journey also echoes the perseverance of countless students throughout the world who, despite overwhelming odds, show great courage to keep studying and keep striving for a brighter tomorrow. Now, more than ever, students like Nhial deserve to have their stories told and have their voices heard."

Deng, a South-Sudanese native, relocated to Ethiopia during the Sudanese civil war. At the time, he lived in Gembel village in Ethiopia, where he would play with other children in the river. Additionally, Deng enjoyed listening to his father's radio and aspired to become a journalist.

However in 2010, a militia group attacked the village which forced Deng to leave his family behind and walk hundreds of kilometres to Kakuma refugee camp, which became his home for the next 12 years.

During his time at the camp, he founded the Refugee Youth Peace Ambassadors Initiative which involves youth empowerment and peacebuilding.

He conducted mentoring sessions, workshops, sports activities and community dialogues. As a result of these efforts, the initiative became recognised by UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth.

In 2021, he created SheLeads Kakuma - a leadership and mentorship program that assisted young girls to promote gender equality in several refugee camps with help from a grant from global advocacy organization Women Deliver.

Further, he set up a digital awareness campaign to tackle misinformation during the COVID pandemic period. 

This involved providing the community with information from credible sources such as the World Health Organisation and Kenya' Ministry of Health. These efforts helped reach over 40,000 people at the camp.

Students study under trees in Kakuma
Students study under trees in Kakuma.