By Philip Thon Aleu
September 18, 2011 (KAMPALA) – South Sudan’s new minister of higher education said on Saturday during a visit to Uganda that “a lot of changes” will be made to processes of awarding scholarship to students due to lack of transparency and corruption at his ministry.
- Traditional dancers from South Sudan’s Lakes state prepare to entertain guests at the ceremony to welcome South Sudan’s minister for higher education. Sept. 17, 2011 in Kampala (Photo: ST/Philip Thon Aleu)
Responding to requests from students to release of delayed annual support funds minister Peter Adwok Nyaba said a parliamentary inquiry would be launched into the alleged misappropriation of the resources.
Despite acknowledging its shortcoming, speaking at a ceremony in Kampala, the minister lauded the post-war scholarship initiative. Many South Sudanese study at universities around East Africa due to the low quality of education in South, which in July became independent from the North as part of a 2005 peace deal.
The South Sudanese Students Union (SSSU), an umbrella of college and university students in Uganda organised a celebration on Saturday to mark South Sudan becoming Africa’s 54th country.
South Sudan declared independence on 9 July from the rest of Sudan following a landslide vote for secession in January. The plebiscite was part of the 2005 peace accord that ended two decades of North—South war.
Abraham Thon, leader of the SSSU gave a speech at the event complaining that the government of the Republic of South Sudan had delayed providing funds for students. Some students who rely on the support would not be able to begin the academic year Thon said.
“Our students will not complete their courses because there is no money,” Thon said.
He said that students wanted to where the money had gone, claiming it had "disappeared between the ministry of finance and minister of higher education".
- South Sudan minister of higher education Peter Adwok Nyaba (L) holds a gift for President Salva Kiir from Southern Sudanese students in Uganda as deputy head of mission Ador Akok (R) looks on. Kampala. Sept. 17, 2011 (Photo: ST/Philip Thon Aleu)
The student leader also requested that South Sudan’s ministry of education reverse its decision to halt support to students joining universities in the coming 2010/2011 academic year.
Thon said that stopping the funding was contrary to what South Sudan fought for in decades of war with the North.
The higher education minister appealed for time to address the issue pointing out he had only been in office for just over two weeks.
Nyaba said that he would create a more transparent system of awarding of
scholarship and making financial transactions.
"There is going to be a lot of changes in the way scholarship and tuition fees are paid out,” minister Nyaba added.
South Sudan started offering scholarship to students in Egypt, Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda – most of whom took refuge there during the 1983—2005 war that ravaged the country. Students on private scholarships are given annual support funds but the assistance had been delayed this year.
The minister said there is a report before South Sudan parliament suggesting that “corruption” was to blame for funds going missing.
Nyaba revealed that one of official at the ministry of higher education has been sentenced to prison and being asked to pay back $222,996. However the minister did not name the official or provide any further information, moving swiftly on to detail changes that will be made to scholarship awards and student funding.
Illiteracy rates are high among South Sudanese but efforts to upgrade the education system have shown little progress since 2005 when the former rebels, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) began governing South Sudan, as part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that led to independence.
South Sudan’s ruling SPLM faces huge challenges in developing the oil-rich country, including educating the citizens.
PRESIDENT KIIR’S DONATION
President Salva Kiir was expected to attend the student event but was said to busy to leave Juba. The students presented a gift to President Kiir in his absence alongside Minister Nyaba and other guests at the ceremony, where officials estimate attendance was around 6,000 people.
Meanwhile, President Kiir donated US dollars 50,000 to the South Sudan Students Union, minister Nyaba, who represented South Sudan’s leader announced in his speech.