GUEST WRITER: Why Minister for Education Deserves More Than This ‘CONGRATULATORY MESSAGE
There is a reason why I turned down an article praising Dr. Riek Gai Kok, Minister for Health (RSS), for his good work that was highlighted by his health project that was delivered in company of David Yau Yau to the president’s homestead of Akon, Warrap State. And there is another reason why I am now publishing on my weblog another opinion praising Dr. John Gai Yoh, Minister for Education. The reason is not that I am a teacher-in-the-making at Makerere University; the reason is that he is preparing the ground for the real foundation of our nation–the act of instilling back the squandered dignity and discipline in our education system of South Sudan. I rarely publish public works but this opinion by Lt. Gen. Deng Kuoirot deserves my recommendation. Enjoy!
By Lt. Gen. Wilson Deng Kuoirot
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela (18th April 2007).
As seen in the quote from Nelson Mandela above, whoever follows in his footstep stands to achieve that result. Without hesitation, Dr. John Gai Yoh, Minister of Education, Science and Technology in the Republic of South Sudan is already on this path. Flattering flavours aside, this is why I think he deserves more than just this congratulatory and encouragement message.
During his three years in this most important ministry, the institution has achieved a number of its predetermined objectives, two of which now stand out.
Recently, he initiated the stabilization process of salaries for the lecturers and academic staff of the Public Universities in South Sudan. This increment of the incentives and remuneration of the staff will bring about a number of advantages that accrue to the improvement of our education system.
First, the academic fraternity will be motivated. As it is known in the human capital theory of education as an investment, the higher the pay, the higher the productivity of the work force. In other words, this boost in the labour compensation of the lecturers and others is a boost in their amount of knowledge, time and spirit to be committed to the classroom business; hence, a great quality output by the end of a particular academic program in our education system.
Besides, this is in recognition of their academic accomplishments. For example, a full professor was paid a meagre earning of 7,000 South Sudanese Pound for a full month of chalk work and Administration tasks as well. But currently, this salary scale is raised to 18,000 SSP, an increment of over 100%!
Therefore, the first figure meant to the outside world that the knowledge and endeavors this professional lot gives to the country was underrated, hence lowers not only their dignity but also the general outlook of education in the country. This explains why many students opt for other careers at the expense of teaching job in their higher educational choices.
Having mentioned the negative attitudes created, this increment in the salaries will attract more qualified scholars to the profession of teaching in our Public Universities and Tertiary Institutions only if extended and maintained across the sector. This even means foreign competent educationists could be attracted to our education system.
In the same line of thoughts, not only the dignity of the staffers but also the capacity and value of the institutions, themselves, is raised a notch higher. It is a fact well known that poor teachers make poor students, who in turn make poor schools, which leads to poor delivery of services in the nation.
How does dignity come about? Early September 2015, Makerere University invited and hosted on its main campus our very dear literary uncle, Prof. Taban lo Liyong, the current head of Literature Department in the University of Juba, in a rare recognition of his literary contribution in East Africa, Africa and the world at large. It was the 50th Anniversary of the prophetically critical article he wrote in 1965 referring to East Africa as a ‘Literary Desert’. His current achievement illustrates the quality of education that was given to that generation and which we must all endeavor to restore.
Have I said enough? Not yet. The second most achievement Dr. John Gai has successfully pushed for is the final establishment and legislation of the unified national curriculum of the Republic of South Sudan. This means, if implemented accordingly, our children will no longer be dispersing to many directions in search for world’s legally recognized education credentials. We have lost, as a nation, huge sums of money in hiring non-native examinations from Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and other neighbouring countries, whose curricula go with their values and cultures. Now, South Sudan has joined this academic league, thanks to Dr. John Gai.
In short, this launching of our unified curriculum and stabilization of the remuneration will not only restore our academic identity but also retain millions of South Sudanese Pound or dollars that our economy loses every year to our neighbours and beyond. No comprehensive researches and records are there for public consumption from our ministry, but since a bigger population of our quality learners migrate in search for greener academic pastures, one can just imagine how much we wire out every month to our children and their guardians in foreign schools. We have lost more than we even can imagine!
Before I hit the last point, the part that motivated me to write this congratulatory message, it would be very unfair to focus on the roof of the house and pay little attention to its foundation. As a parent, learning begins at home. And in our education system, both formal and informal, the home and preparatory schools should share all the roles of founding a successfully working future nation. In a nutshell, professors and other higher teachers would teach nobody if high quality and huge quantity of learners and knowledge are not churned out from primary through secondary schools. Therefore, a great deal of work is needed in uplifting the face of the foundation of our education. It is my humble and sincere appeal that lower teachers’ salaries in both primary and secondary schools be increased as well.
In conclusion, such achievements as demonstrated by Hon. Dr. John Gai can be sustained by maintaining such resourceful public servants like him. I am optimistic that the Ministry of Education Science and Technology will achieve more in its mission and also in line with Sustainable Development Goals (United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2015-2030).
The writer is an SPLA Lt. General on Reserve and a student pursuing MBA in the University of Westminster, UK, and President of South Sudan National Olympic Committee. He can be reached on e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org