May 13, 2012 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s Minister of Higher Education has closed all privately owned learning institutions with “immediate effect” leaving thousands of students without a place to study.
Higher Education Minister, Peter Adwok, said the decision was taken after a committee founded in January to evaluate the standard of the institutions discovered that they were of a low standard. Up to ten institutions will be closed.
"After thorough analysis of the Report [of the committee] I … therefore ordered closed with immediate effect all the institutions of which do not meet or fulfill the conditions of providing university education and this includes their license withdrawal,” Adwok told reporters in Juba Thursday.
The outlawed institutions include Southern University, Bridge University, Nile Institute of Technology, Cambridge International College and African Population Institute among others.
The move comes after a long battle between the ministry and private institutions that flocked to South Sudan from from 2006 onwards after a landmark peace deal with Khartoum as signed the previous year.
Last year the government said that 73% of the population could not read and write. South Sudan became independent in July last year and is struggling to recover from decades of conflict and underdevelopment.
Thousands of South Sudanese, many of whom never had a chance for academic studies during the civil war with Sudan registered for courses at the private institutions.
However, the ministry’s committee found that many students attending the higher education courses had not completed basic secondary education.
South Sudan is still struggling to establish a national curriculum as it changes from Arabic to English as official language of instruction in schools.
Minister Adwok said the criteria of the decision as to whether to close the private institutions included the quality of the owners and the qualifications of lecturers and administrators.
The minister said the affected students will have to apply to his ministry for consideration to continue their studies at state institutions. He did not say whether there was a possibility that some of the licenses could be revived.
The students affected by students have described the decision as unfair but others have welcomed the move.
“These institutions were giving academic papers to some people who went to high school. It was corrupting our national education,” a state university student said requesting anonymity.
However a student from Southern University, one of those due to close, said the government had a lot to answer for over the why they allowed the universities to operate in the first place if they were now going to shut them down. He that the decision only served to "punish" the students who were trying to educate themselves.
Minister Peter Adwok said he has written to ministry of legal affairs to take measures against the institutions for “fraudulently fleecing” the students indicating that their existence was illegal.