Home | Comment & Analysis    Tuesday 6 March 2012

Amend South Sudan transitional constitution to save Arabic pattern students


By James Okuk

March 5, 2012 — "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." (Article 6(2), Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan).

When Mr. Hon. Minister John Luk Jok and his cronies in the SPLM and elsewhere were so busy and busying imposing a partiality irrelevant and selfish transitional constitution on a fact-value tough realities of South Sudan, I was one of the opposers and particularly on the case of fixating the colonial English language as the only lingua officio in the new country.

Unfortunately, my opinion was taken as an offense and thus criminalized with imprisoning consequence as I underwent shortly after my arrival in Juba. I wasn’t surprised to discover that Mr. Hon. Minister Luk was in fact behind my prosecution together with some other first-order Ministers and presidential advisors of the new Republic.

My opinion was translated and interpreted by those semi-utopian and power-hungry if not angry politicians as insult against their government and SPLM regime. However, and as Jesus Christ parabled it that even if you hid a light under a bed, its objective radiants will still come out surely despite your subjective dislike of the inevitable illumination.

The case in point here is the fate of public universities that are now annexed to the Republic of South Sudan by default. These universities used to be part of the higher learning institutions of the Sudan. Many of their colleges and centers were stationed and operated in Khartoum, and under control of Jellaba; be it the curriculum, academic staff, other personnel, laboratories, libraries, etc.

More narrowly, I would like to limit this case to the current situation of University of Juba, which is and should be regarded as the Mother of other universities in South Sudan.

As I write this article and as you read it, the students are facing difficulties of transition from the Sudan to South Sudan as far as the fate of their right or privilege to education is concerned. The government seems to be caring less with plenty of empty promises than actions as commonly known in the fourth world before it get into third one.

Those who were admitted and taught as Arabic pattern students are being forced to to become Englishmen at their final years. The scenario is like telling them to attend and write their lectures and exams in Chinese language when they are not used to this at all. If not they are advised to quit and learn the required language externally elsewhere before they dare to come back to lecture rooms or halls.

Does this makes any sense even if the transitional constitution says that the medium of official educational instruction in South Sudan must be English language?

Yes, it will be a violation of the highest law in the country if a lecturer goes to class in Juba University to teach his students in unconstitutional language. It will also be a violation of South Sudan constitution if students attempt to note down their lectures or take exams using unconstitutional language.

But what about students who are studying foreign languages like French, German, Arabic, etc; in which language will they do this? Will they write, for example, their French language exams using English language so that they can look like good constitutional law-abiding citizens?

Of course it will look naive indeed. But who is really naive; those who manufactured the law of sidelining Arabic language or those who are trying to apply and implement the imposed law that seems to lack the sense of the common good. Does South Sudan have a problem with Arabic language or with the Arabic race? Even Israel teaches its students classical Arabic language.

For me, instead of students turning against themselves or against their lecturers and administration in the university, they should go straight to where the problem has been created. It is good that Mr. John Luk, the chief architect of the so-called South Sudanese transitional constitutional is still alive and kicking in Juba, with the direction of his Ministry of Justice known by both the students and university administration. It is good too that he is now an appointed MP despite his fall in ballot boxes during 2010 general elections. He is part of the law-making and law-amending factory in South Sudan, i.e., the National Legislative Assembly (SSNLA).

Thus, the students of the University of Juba should go to Hon. John Luk’s comfortable office near New Sudan Hotel to kindly ask him to table in the SSNLA a motion of amending that messy part of the transitional constitution so that the Arabic patterns students in the university could be saved from the constitutional wrath of instructing them in a prohibited foreign language.

If Hon. John Luk declined to grant the kind request, then the students may go elsewhere to find an intelligent and caring MP to table the salvation motion that will kick out the mess for good and for the sake of students’ peace in the university. By then and only by then, will the Arabic patterns students be allowed to graduate together with their English patterns colleges.

Any tendency to compromise with the Arabic patterns students before the highly recommended constitutional amendment would surely be a violation to the supreme law in the new country. It is not virtuous to disobey the law though it is prudent to interpret the law in the interest of the common good rather than interest of the stronger or the powerful.

Please South Sudan National MPs, give an assurance of highest consideration to the difficult situation being faced by the students in the public universities, especially the problem of language transition from Arabic to English. Amend the the hindering constitutional article so that a legal safety is ensured for our universities who should not be denied the right to education in Arabic and other languages.

In truth and logic we should lay our trust. Long live South Sudan! Long live Juba and other Universities!

Dr. James Okuk lives in Juba and could be reached at okukjimy@hotmail.com.

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  • 6 March 2012 14:00, by Paul Ongee


    You’re only interested in denigrating the educational policy of South Sudan and the leadrship as well. Those students claim English is relatively easier than Arabic. Unlike following independence of 1956 when Sudan decided to be part of Middle East regardless of Southerners who were taught in English by missionaries. Tutors can do that.

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  • 6 March 2012 15:22, by Majoknok

    You know Dr.Okuk,I agree with you for a gradual transition from arabic to english language,but the level of hit is high.We don’t have nothing to do with arab anymore,I was an arabic pattern student throughout my education.They will pick up!!

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    • 6 March 2012 23:23, by Elijah B. Elkan

      Mr. Majokon,

      Non-sens, no gradual transition, it has to be done cool turkey. However, I agree with you on some issues on your comments. Arabic language is nothing but a cancer and it has to be cut off affective immediately. I don’t buy Okuk "Long live South Sudan! Long live Juba and other Universities!" Okuk, is agent of Khartoum, and that’s fact. I am surprise he is not in Khartoum already.

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      • 8 March 2012 07:36, by Jimmy A. Makur

        To James OKUK,

        I do agree with you on this issue because we citizens of S. Sudan have no problem with Arabic as a language. So the Governmet shouldn’t discriminate against Arabic pattern students.

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        • 13 March 2012 19:14, by James Maker Akok

          Let them learn English first befor they go to Universities.

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  • 6 March 2012 20:39, by Ayuel Bong

    Mr.James Okuk,
    You came with article that seemed to me baseless because I saw many people in Southern Sudan are spoken Arabic Language include officials in government and sometimes the officials gave their speeches in Arabic so I wonder how they become the enemy of Arabic Language while they have been using as their second language.The syllabus in education is so far different from the politics

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  • 6 March 2012 21:10, by Elijah B. Elkan

    Mr. Okuk,

    With all due respect, you are absolutely wrong in your argument regarding what language to be use. It’s settle English is the official language in south Sudan as of July 9,2011. South Sudan is a free nation, it can set it constitution as it’s intellects see it fit. Please stop spewing venom, next, are you going to push for Islamic/Koran studies at these Universities.

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  • 7 March 2012 02:00, by Elijah B. Elkan

    Mr. Okuk, you’re right "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." Your argument to keep Arabic in south Sudan is a serious error in your judgment. Next the Arabs will want to establish their sharia law in the south. Okuk, you need to be proactive,think about the future of your country.

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  • 7 March 2012 02:30, by Tribe


    After transfer ,Juba Univesity had loss its large pool of Arabic-based faculty. That is a known fact. So to mitigate this dire situation , instead of ranting about scoring your own concieved hiden agenda against the constitution on expense of desperate students,i expect you Mr.professor to offer your expertise.

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  • 7 March 2012 21:54, by Chuangah

    South Sudan recognizes English as the only official language in South Sudan, those who like drag Arabic cultures and their Islamic llingua to South Sudan must immediately quit this soil or else yu go to the bush to liberate Arabic cultures and their Islamic lingua. Our brothers who cooperate will cope up with English by taking intensive course, yu called our constitution the so called!

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    • 10 March 2012 07:03, by Mike Mike

      Hi Guys,the matter is not in language or in religious,what let,s fight with the north Sudan is in mismanagement of national resources and poor ruling over the people.If you people thought that problem happen in language then i totally disagreed with you and even if we adapt to use english as official language and ought to use poor ruling system in the newst state still we may fight among ourselves

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      • 11 March 2012 22:23, by Elijah B. Elkan

        Mr. Mike, You missed the point, you’re way out in the left field.The problem with civil war in Sudan is the language and religion. I will agree with you in part, mismanagement and sharia law are responsible for the brake up of the country.Arabic is bad language, and south Sudan need to get ride of it. North Sudan have absolutely nothing to offer south Sudan.They killed 2.5 millions of your people.

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  • 11 March 2012 07:32, by American Missile.

    Dear Readers.
    There is nothing like amending South Sudan Transitional constitution to save Arabic pattern Student.English is the official language that we must adapt.we vote for referendum in order to leaves Arabic Culture behind with its obsessed.
    People must know that we are a Country with Englsih pattern,anybody thinking that we will continue Arabic issue is A daydreamer.shame on you.

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  • 12 March 2012 20:57, by James Maker Akok

    Those who know arabic language without english should not waste their times in Universities while they don’t know english. Where will they go to work without english? Is better for them to learn English second Language, after that they go to Universities after they know English. South Sudan should not break the law, Law is a law.

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