By Deng Akok Muoradid
March 20, 2019 (SSNA) — Juba University is one of the five universities of South Sudan. It was established in 1972 as a result of the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement between Gen Nimeri’s regime and Anya Anya One movement under the leadership of Joesph Lago. The University was later temporary transferred to Khartoum due to the outbreak of the Second Sudanese civil war (1983-2005). The signing of Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 and return of calm and normality to the then Southern Region led to the permanent relocation of Juba University to its original place in Juba. The administrations of Juba, Upper Nile, and Bhar El Ghazal Universities were handed over to the government of South Sudan in 2011 after the separation. The situation of the above three universities turned from best into worst immediately after the appointment of Dr. Adwok Nyaba as the new minister of high education of the Republic of South Sudan in 2011.
The living standards of the students at the University of Juba was 100% good when its administration was in the hands of Arabs compared to the current situation because it has been turned into a business center by our fellow South Sudanese. By that time, students had four meals a day, 24 hours electricity, weekly incentives, and free quality education. All the above services or amenities disappeared immediately after the appointment of Dr. Adwok Nyaba as the minister of high education. Dr. Adwok Nyaba also threatened the students that poor people’s children aren’t supposed to study at the University. Dr. Adwok Nyaba was fired in July 2013. The ministry of high education and the ministry of general education were later combined together and handed over to Dr. Gai Yoach.
In 2014, the Vice Chancellor of Juba University Professor Aggrey Abate was relieved and replaced with the current Vice-Chancellor Professor John Akec. The dismissal of Professor Agrey Abate was celebrated with joy and happiness by those who never knew that his successor John Akec was coming to fulfill and implement the unimplemented policies of the former minister Dr. Adwok Nyaba. Things turned from bad into worst under Akec’s administration. A number of lecturers have resigned and left the country for exile. No food and water for the students at the University despite the fact that there are food and water for the students who are studying in Rumbek, Dr. John Garang and Bhar El Ghazal Universities, no practicals for the science students due to the lack of apparatuses and chemicals in the laboratory.
The Juba University Vice-Chancellor Professor John Akec and his administration first increased the tuition fees for the academic year of 2016-2017 in which the tuition fees for college of medicine was increased from 3100 South Sudanese Pounds to 15000 South Sudanese Pounds, the one for the college of engineering was increased from 2000 South Sudanese Pounds to 14000 South Sudanese Pounds and followed by the rest of colleges. The increment of the tuition fees for the academic year 2016-2017 resulted in the outcry. The situation was rescued by when the president of the Republic of South Sudan who doubles as the Chancellor of all the public universities intervened. President Salva Kiir ordered the university administration to cancel the new fees. John Akec unwillingly implemented the president’s order since he had no alternative.
In February 2019, President Salva Kiir Mayardit relieved all the Vice-chancellors of five public universities and reappointed Professor John Akec as the Vice Chancellor of Juba University. Being given the second chance, Professor John Akec immediately issued a circular increasing the tuition fees of all the colleges in the University without consulting the ministry of high education and chairperson of the education committee in the national legislative assembly or without even narrating the logic behind the increment. He increased the tuition fees of all the government-sponsored students who are studying in science-based colleges from 7000 South Sudanese Pounds to 61000 South Sudanese Pounds and one of the private students to 86000 South Sudanese Pounds. He also increased the tuition fees of art based colleges from 4000 South Sudanese pounds to 59000 South Sudanese Pounds.
Upon receiving the news of tuition fees increment, the disgruntled students quickly gathered at the freedom tree in the campus and went to the Vice Chancellor’s Office, demanding him to explain the logic behind his decision. John Akec delegated his deputy to go and brief the disgruntled students. His deputy promised the students that the administration would give them feedback in 48 hours. Following the elapse of 48 hours, the whole university was full of police with heavy artillery. The campus was also surrounded by police vehicles mounted with machine guns. Many students were arrested by the police on the orders from Vice-Chancellor Professor John Akec but they were later released.
The abrupt decision to increase the tuition fees will compel many students especially those from poor families to suspend their studies. John Akec’s intention is to prevent the poor people’s children from studying at the University since their parents couldn’t afford to pay such a huge amount of money. His decision is in accordance with the former minister’s policy of “university for rich people’s children”.
The writer is a Senior Human Right Activist. He can be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.