Problem is the ROTS; not the RIOTS in Public Universities and the RISE of Private Institutions in South Sudan
Pieces of Advice to my fellow brothers/sisters and students of the closed ‘universities’.
Nobody would wish a son or daughter, a brother or sister to drop out. Nobody! But equally, nobody, in their natural sanity, would also wish a son, daughter, brother or sister to drop in at a campus, which has no compass for the future. Those quasi universities closed down by the minister (I thought it was the Ministry of Higher Education and its constitution) did a lot of injustice to our Virgin Nation, an academic defilement not only to the fresh brains but also to the fresh name of this nation. Therefore, if there is any wish to mourn for the losses incurred during the shut down, I hereby drop in my croco-dialed tears. The condolence message to my fellow students is delivered in my anthology of poetry (to be published when I get rich— Inshallah), entitled: The Black Christs of Africa. The chapter asks, “Illiteracy or Ill-literacy?” And the poem in question says:
The Prudent Student
When I was a sophomore,
It was like climbing a sycamore,
For I had no choice but to suffer more.
When an advisor helped me to quit,
Onto his face I wanted to spit
And have it all split.
So I had to become lean,
But clean. What here do I mean
In order to the rest not to become mean?
A testimony told
Is as a ceremony sold;
To amateurs it shall unfold.
Omnipresent looms thy adversity
On thy rung of rank up—to the university,
For thy friend Fred or foe Joe are but of universality.
Be it a program or a problem,
It inevitably bears an anniversary emblem,
Via which graduates even a Man from Bethlehem.
Therefore, a compassed campus student
Must not pass through the university like a rodent,
Rather, the university must pass through him to be prudent.
Ignorance, arrogance, and racism have bloomed as Superior Knowledge in all too many universities.
Alice Walker (1944 – )
U.S. novelist and poet.
In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens, “A Talk: Convocation 1972”
Previous Analysis and Public Reactions
Having learned a lot of advice, especially in the conclusion of that poem, The Prudent Student, let us also examine carefully some samples from the public, say Media, responses over the issue.
“The action taken is to transform the education system from quantity to quality. This is not to deny people the right to education, but we want our people to be highly educated in a correct and legal way”– Dr. Peter Adwok Nyaba, Minister for Higher Education, Science and Technology (RSS).
According to Prof. John Akec, VC for the University of Northern Bahr-el-Ghazal, “An intensely enraged hotel manager in Juba who was studying human resource management in one of the affected PHEIs (Private Higher Education Institutions) told him: ‘We cannot find fuel… now we cannot find education. This is an incitement of public anger against our government. What else are we left to do? Play cards or go to disco? How beneficial is that to our wellbeing?” And another rejoinder goes, “Professor, I am an orphan. I lost my father in war. With these private institutions I could work to pay my fees and at the same time support my family. Now I have no idea what to do!” said another young man affected by the closure.
So, the Professor, himself, had this for his take on the hot debate (sudantribune.com), “But precisely denying them education is what this decision amounts to when the Ministry of Higher Education under the stewardship of Dr. Nyaba decides to lock up the private higher education institutions (PHEIs) and send students home in the promise of providing ’quality education’ which no one currently possesses and no one knows when it is going to materialize. It is not unlike preventing children from feeding on bread crumbs within their reach; and sending them to bed with empty stomachs with a promise of waking up in the following morning with cake on their plates. It is no exaggeration saying that not many of these children will be persuaded by the promise to let go of few crumbs they lay hands on, let alone the grownup Ex-SPLA combatants and many working adults whose education was interrupted by war and who are now looking for second-chance themselves, the opportunity that only private institutions have been able to provide. Little something is better than nothing, conventional wisdom would tell.”
However, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. John Akec seems not to be only complaining of the closure of the so-called PHEIs but also contradicting his justification in this piece of his, entitled, Private Higher Education in South Sudan: Lessons from Africa, “However, it would be foolhardy of me to deny that there are no genuine concerns regarding the quality of education provided by private and foreign owned institutions in South Sudan. It is how we deal with these concerns is what I find rather irksome.”
In the same vein, somebody somewhere out there finds the way our ‘Infant Nation’ could have 34 private higher institutions in less than one year of its birth. Folks, however beautiful a girl could be, it would not fetch 34 suitors in the first year of her birthday– wallahi!. This is ridiculous. There is a cancer mushrooming in every sector of our economy. Besides this ‘universitization’ virus, there is an outbreak of companies of all sorts, with over 90% shares held by foreigners, just the way these would-be secondary schools are swarming in the name of private universities, owned by foreign ‘conmen’ and covered up by unpatriotic patriots of our nation. They make my heart bleed!
And it bled more profusely when I went to visit a friend in his teen-room hotel at Atlabara in Juba last November. When I entered, I saw the front shops packed with men and women of different age sets seriously bending over dog-eared books. They were ‘students’ of a certain university in their exam preps. Thank God (and Adwok), it is closed! I mean that slum-based facility is not only housing hotel rooms, a huge bar with Arse-anal fans shouting over beer-ladden tables but also with desperate knowledge hunters deceived to receive degrees, diplomas and certificates from universities and colleges neither registered by our ministry nor recognized by the world around us.
As if that is not enough. There was this article, which reads in parts, as quoted from an old Ugandan tabloid, The Red Pepper, in 2008, with the headline shouting: Makerere Degrees Manufactured in South Sudan! And the mid paragraph goes, “…Makerere University will have no customers soon from the northern direction. Hundreds of students will just graduate at Yei Campus of our university in Southern Sudan… Computer geeks and oil money are doing there best there.”
This was confirmed by the one former undersecretary’s secretary in Juba two years ago. My age mate-cum-school mate lamented, exposing a bundle of glittering (but not golden) certificates under his desk, some looking exactly like UCE and others UACE (‘U’ stands for Uganda and the rests of the letters are ‘Advanced’, ‘Certificate’, and ‘Education’), “John, look at what we have been sweating for all these years. It can be produced just here and a price of our previous one term of a secondary!” I felt dizzy upon seeing such a bundle of corruption threatening our future, not only as a generation but generally as a nation in the making.So this is how we are making it? That is why I have to shed only my ‘croco-dialed’ tears to my friends, who have been crying wolves over the closure of their private ‘universities’, the institutions providing private knowledge to the nationals, and even internationals, of this 21 Century. Hmmm…!
Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing…
Below, too, is the piece I pierced together in reaction to the action that led to the closure of the university-(ies). I am talking of the University of Juba, the one in Juba. In this opinion published in The South Sudan Tribune daily newspaper in Juba, in April 2012, I had tried to prescribe and proscribe the problem as follows:
The problem is not the riot; it is the rot in our higher institutions.
On Monday March 26 or so, 2012, war broke out in the oilfield of Panthou, let them call it Heglig or even this Hijlij. The same day, same date, another war broke out in the only public university in the capital of South Sudan. Both wars are not related or coordinated, but why for hell’s sake on the same day, same time? Two one-day-old wars on our soil— one on the oil, and the other on whatnot. The latter, the university fight, I was too hard to get convinced, is the usual tribe-based conflict that is a brand of our public institutions. Wow, it just happened in Wau, and now in Juba! Where next?
(It is as rampant as the fires in our country this year. One of them broke out in the Big Man’s house, one in the Party, another in Waat market, another in Mogire garrison’s market, and as if that is not enough, there broke out similar arson in Warawar, and the like; and the mother of all in Konyo-konyo. Why am I mentioning these serious of serious arsons (fires by saboteurs)? They are not only indicators of general failure but also indicators of external hands in the war of terror on our nation.)
That aside, the fact that this university fight has a big tribal affiliation is no little trivial humiliation to our brand new nation. Like a fish, for the top university contents to go rotten in the head as such is a signal that we are giving birth to a new generation of moral degeneration unless something is done, done now, now and now. The University of Juba’s war is more alarming than the border war because the future lies not in that oil but on this soil, where our future leadership is being brewed into a bunch of hooligans, very arrogant in the name of their tribes. But if we realized 10 years later that we have brewed the brutes in our topmost institution, then we are doomed! Now, we are damned, with no more solution but to have the actions condemned by closure of the Big Fence. Well, as for me, the big offence is not the closing, but the closure. And the closure is not the cure of the curse, it is the occurrence. So we are doomed!
Or if, indeed, we are not doomed, then why would these students turn and shed blood on one another, instead of mobilizing to reinforce their brothers (and sisters?) in Unity State and along that volatile border. If, very fast as such from our past, we have learned nothing and forgotten nothing from the bitter experiences in the hand of our colonial masters, I then beg to remind us in this piece of mind. Give our baby nation a peace of mind. To remind you, in 1983, the pioneers who made up Koryom and the first SPLA battalions were students. Once the Juba and Rumbek-based students heard there was a battle already raging on in Bor, they threw off their exercise books and pens and rushed madly into the bushes like berserk buffalos, hence the birth of the liberation movement comprising gallant generation of fighters namely: Buffalo, Leopard, Crocodile, Hippo, Lion Battalion; complete the list if you were part and parcel of this history.
In fact, there was no battalion with names such as Fox or Hyena. I bet in the name of our virgin nation, if the current generation had to form another Anya-nya (III), there would be Katipa Morphoyeen (Hyena Battalion) and the like. Of course, its manpower is ripe now, given the list of the foreign bank savers, being pampered in Juba. Yes, if simple matters such as food queue could cause dangerous war to break out in the top institution, then what name can you give to a battalion of such fighters, if (God, please forbid) war breaks out? Well, it has already broken out, but who is there to break out of those fences and rush towards Bentiu or Malakal? Even the current Jonglei battle for cattle has made other youth decamped from Dr. John Garang University to Juba, if my sources are genuine. Instead of heading that way, they, instead choose to jump onto one another’s throat in the names of liberating their own tribes from being subdued inside that ugly wall that encloses a colonially inherited institution, whose system smells old and odd.
Am I being obscene? No, I think I am being only off-scene. What is more obscene here is the way two footballers (sounds like food-bowlers) could step on each other’s toe and mobilize tribal jihad fighters and command them in a battle that left 10 moaning with stitches and broken legs. I wonder if Hon. Daniel Deng Dau will accept to register such broken-legged tribal freedom fighters for benefits in his Wounded Heroes Commission. Brothers and sisters of the new nation, we are being forced now to count the sources – but we must be forced later to account for the causes – of the wounds that we have sustained and maintained either physically or psychologically between 1983 and 20XX. So let us be extra careful and ultra fearful when it comes to matters to do with fighting by rioting. We must fight and die in a just war. I would rather maintain a minute of silence for a victim of a genuine violence than this sort of. I mean I would rather pay a hospital visit and pay a hospital fee charged on pedestrians (drivers exempted) at the gate of Juba Teaching Hospital to see that girl who broke her leg in the Wau’s Feeder Airlines accident than to that brother who broke his leg defending his tribe in Juba University football incident.
I am such bitter because the incident in Juba that day put our noble mission into shame in Jonglei State. The news of the student riots reached me in the afternoon of Tuesday through a radio broadcast. This found us in the middle of convincing some hardliners of revenge war to relax and join our peace caravan under Jonglei Civil Society Group. No sooner had I completed a statement in South Sudan Hotel than one of the listeners shot up to shout, “Stop condemning us here. I do not like your accusation that we are victims of a cattle battle or tribal battle. What about that war going on in Juba? If a student of a top university in the capital city could fight to defend his people from being abused by his fellow student, then who are you to blame us here for defending our people?” I felt like we should call off the mission. However, we are still guided by our vision and its mission statement of “A peace caravan to sensitize and sanitize Jonglei communities on psychological disarmament and peaceful development”. In line with our group statement, I hereby refer the University of Juba to the clinic of psychological disarmament.
Some hardliners’ newspaper ran hot headlines of a riot crippling our education system. I say no! It is not a riot, the root problem is a rot. A rot, symbolized by a rotten sewage system, rotten buildings, rotten curriculum, etc., is what gives rise to such a riot. Besides, some of the following factors and actors are to blame for the flame of the same game of tribes in our universities that occur year in, year out. Let me count them.
1- Tribal associations
Sincerely, there is too much tribe on campus. Too much politics. Too much business. Too much socialization. In general, too much freedom, the crude type, on this campus. It is the type downloaded from its IDP branch in Khartoum. I have ever read a notice for a meeting by association members of a small tribe, whose general population is estimated as 3,000 inhabitants in Raga County (next time let’s call it Raja), according to Gurtong website. I also saw in 2010 a regional association organizing a national event in the university premises. What messages do you think these CBAs (community-based associations) will dispatch to the nation once they are rattled? What are their objectives? Something like…’To protect members of our tribe on campus once they are attacked physically, politically or academically.’ If…