By Magok Alier Akuot
April 6, 2012 — t is said that two wrongs can’t make a right. I have lost patience in the way things are done in the Republic of South Sudan and so I think that I can’t just keep quiet which is why I will ask you to read through with me as I take you along on what I think is not rightly done.
Upon attainment of independence on July 9th, 2011, the Republic of South Sudan adopted the Transitional Constitution after the President of the Government of Southern Sudan and current President of the Republic of South Sudan, H.E Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit, appended his signature! The Transitional Constitution came into force on July 9th, 2011- the day it was adopted by the Constituent Assembly in Juba. Art 6(2) of the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, 2011 provides that English shall be the official working language in the Republic of South Sudan as well as the language of instruction at all levels of education. Here, this provision is well laid down in a plain simple language which does not need any translation since there is no usage of the legal wording.
A couple of months ago, Arabic students at the University of Bahr el Ghazal in Wau town went on strike demanding the giving of lectures in Arabic. The same criterion was used by University of Juba Arabic students demanding the giving of lectures in Arabic. In all these scenarios, something had to be done to stop the violence from escalating and what ought to be done had to be at a price! The price was either to ignore the provision and deal away with its intended meaning-something lawyers call violation of the law or ignore the students’ demands which meant calling for more strikes. The said two universities had to allow the giving of lectures in Arabic just as Arabic students had demanded! This settled down well in the interest of the striking students. But did the two Universities respect Article 6(2) of the TCSS, 2011? No, they didn’t. They simply violated it in the interest of the said category of students.
The point is I’m not against Arabic nor do I intend to suggest it is my wish Arabic is not guaranteed as an official working language in our new nation, but again it is a question of law and I should be justified to think that we have knowingly or wilfully violated the law we adopted Eight months and twenty-four days ago! Isn’t that funny? I should say it is not because there is no fun in violating our Supreme Law. It all comes to who we are and what we aspire to achieve with respecting the supreme law. But when the going gets tough, perhaps the tough gets going and we may sacrifice anything including violating our supreme law as long as certain citizens who are dissatisfied with our supreme law are brought on board!
Towards the end of 2011, the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology-Dr. Adwok Nyaba stated that students of Dr. John Garang Memorial University of Science and Technology (Dr. JG-MUST) should be given diplomas and that the faculty of law at the University would be closed down and the Law students transferred to University of Juba. This was to the astonishment of not only the students of the said University but also to all those who laid the foundation of this University! For clarity, the students enrolled for degree programmes But not diploma programmes. By this time, the University was a Branch of the Free International University of Moldova. For six months, commencing 4th February, 2008 -1st August, 2008 students enrolled for Access Course. The purpose for Access Course was to harmonise students’ academic backgrounds since these students are holders of East African High School certificates as well as Ethiopian Grade 10 and/or 12 plus less than five Sudan High School certificate holders.
The degree programmes began on 15th September, 2008 under the Moldovans. Students studied for one Semester after which they were given long term vacation. The University was taken over by South Sudanese following the appointment of Prof. Aggrey Ayuen Majok as the Vice Chancellor. Prof. Aggrey mobilised the necessary human resource including Academic staff (lecturers) and took over from Moldovans. Since then the University curriculum has been consistent for degree programmes under four faculties of Law, Science and Technology; Agriculture and Environmental Science. The point is these students who are said to be given diplomas have been on campus undergoing degree training for now close to five years commencing September 2008-2012! The normal diploma programme in Sudan and perhaps in South Sudan takes three academic years. What sort of diplomas was the Minister referring to and why, of all the South Sudanese Universities, is this University singled out? Is it his jurisdiction to determine University programmes or is it the mandate of University senate? Does he have direct jurisdictions to direct VCs to award their students either Certificates, diplomas; Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate, or Honorary degrees? I don’t think so.
The position held by Dr. Adwok Nyaba is totally a political one which gives him minimal academic interference in pursuit of holistic university education. He is a policy maker who has limits contained in the Constitution as well as the Universities’ Act. The a award of a diploma as said by Dr. Adwok is entirely not his call but it’s a determination which is not, under reasonable circumstances, made by the VC but the senate as a supreme University academic body. There is a designed diploma programme which runs for three academic years but a diploma intended by the Minister to be awarded to students of Dr. JG-MUST must have been a political one which is not only in the interest of the said students but also against the interest of South Sudan as a whole. But again the question is: is the Minister justified in saying that the students of Dr. JG-MUST should be awarded diplomas?
The most intriguing point is up to this moment students of Dr. JG-MUST have not been given National Identity Numbers (N.ID.N). The foundation of this University was laid by our President, H.E Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit and confirmed by the then President of the Government of National Unity (GoNU), H.E Omar Hassan Bashir during his visit to Bor Town in the 2010 Presidential elections. By this time, our current Minister of Higher Education was the Minister of Higher Education in the (GoNU). He must have been aware of all these processes and here he is talking of having the Students of this fully pledged university awarded diplomas! This is totally outrageous and unacceptable to the students of the said University. The best approach, though, should have been a comprehensive enquiry to determine the number of credit hours as well as courses covered by the said students per their individual faculties. This proves that the communication of such decision must have been, de facto as well as de jure, sloppy and so I believe the Minister acted beyond the confines of his mandate! I think that the Minister erred in his decision and should withdraw his decision in the interest of successful university education as well as the Ministry of Higher Education. But when the going gets tough I guess this is the effect of the going getting tough!
Six days ago on Tuesday, the 27th March 2012, University of Juba students went on inter-communal strike. The strike involved students from Greater Equatoria and Dinka. In a nutshell, it wasn’t a kind of strike one would wish to have been involved in because it lacked the materiality of a genuine strike. Why would students strike on tribal basis for goodness sake? This is totally embarrassing and the said category of students ought to apologise to the University, nation and the entire world as a whole! Normally, students strike for a common cause such as academic related issues, feeding; sanitation and tuition fees increment to mention but few. In my academic background, I have never heard students go on strike based on tribes. This is totally discouraging and brings the reputation of the most recognised nation’s University into disrepute. At the University, one is neither a Dinka, a Nuer, a Kakwa, a Lotuka, a Didinga; a Zande; a Jur, a Shilluk nor a Kachipo to mention but few. Your identity is being called. Simple as that. I was taken aback to hear the news of this barbaric strike.
Above all, it would be insufficient to think that the students were not wise to do what they did without some sort of political motivation. Well, I’m not trying to speculate and shatter your patience but I think it is better to not leave any stone unturned in order to justify the wrongfulness of students’ actions in the said strike. If there was some sort of political motivation, then the students would have done what the reasonable man ought to have done in the same circumstances having reason to believe or foresee the impact of his actions. So there is no excuse blaming the politicians in this scenario because students did not do what the reasonable man should have done in the same circumstances having reason to believe or foresee the impact his actions would exert on the public and the nation as a whole. The purpose of University education is to mould you to become a responsible citizen having the desire and the moral will to develop and fight the good cause of his people. If our students begin fighting themselves now while at the University then what image are they giving the entire nation: that they will be future leaders? No. We do not condone tribal driven-conflicts especially in an intellectual family. As I have said earlier, the concerned students should apologise to their communities, Juba University; General Public, Juba County, Republic of South Sudan and the entire world because their actions were totally barbaric, scandalous and primitive by nature! But when the going gets tough anything of the aforesaid, including what is not written herein the present article, can happen! I contend that there ought to have been a better solution and to that effect the policymakers in the given scenarios should rethink and revisit their policies or decisions in order to reach a comprehensive solution. But do not forget when the going gets tough the most informed policymakers may lose track and decide beyond the limits of their jurisdictions.
Magok Alier Akuot is a Fourth Year Law student at Dr. John Garang Memorial University of Science and Technology (Dr. JG-MUST). He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. The views and opinions expressed herein the article are entirely mine and do not represent those of Dr. JG-MUST.