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South Sudanese graduates eye return home

October 21, 2011 (KAMPALA) – Having enrolled in schools during the war in neighbouring countries, South Sudanese university graduates say they will return home to contribute in the development of the new nation.

Students of Ndejje University during the graduation on Friday in Kampala. 21 October 2011 (ST)

Out of 1,130 students who graduated on 21 October at Ndejje University in Uganda, at least 50 are South Sudanese. Some of them were born during the 1983-2005 north-south civil war that ended with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which included a vote on secession.

The referendum in January resulted in July’s declaration of independence from the Sudan. After decades of conflict the world’s newest country is left chronically underdeveloped, having suffered from a ’brain drain’ for years.

The South Sudanese students who had been awarded diplomas and degrees in various courses spoke with opportunism that they would be able to help deliver much needed services.

“Everybody has a goal for the nation and my dream is to show farmers how to carry out organic farming,” Bul John Ajak, a graduate of Bachelor of Science in sustainable agriculture and extension told Sudan Tribune. “The issue of food insecurity must be solved,” he added.

In his early 20’s, Bul hails from Jonglei state, which, despite large areas of fertile land, does not produce enough food to feed its population.

Bordering Upper Nile state, farmers in Jonglei struggle to grow, harvest and market significant amounts of food due to insecurity, lack of knowledge of basic methods and equipment as well as poor roads and infrastructure.

Inconsistent rains are also a factor contributing to poor food production. Inhabited by pastoral communities, Jonglei also suffers from cattle rustling. Huge natural resources including water, fertile land, animal resources and human forces are largely redundant.

Bul John (L) and Deng Mangok (R) are some South Sudanese students who graduated at Ndejje University on Friday. 21 October 2011 (ST)Payai Manyok John, a graduate holding a bachelor in Sustainable Natural Resource Management, told Sudan Tribune that environmental conservation will be key to South Sudan’s future prosperity.

“For us [South Sudanese] to have agriculture and all other human lives to [be] sustained, we should tell people about the environment,” Manyok said.

With one of the world’s highest illiteracy rates, South Sudan’s human capacity is low and many find it difficult to find work. Officials also complain that decades of humanitarian assistance has left many aid dependent.

There are few trained teachers and educated human resource officers. Chinya Robert Pino, last week received his Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and Education, and says he will pass on the skills he has acquired. “I am going to teach more students to give them more knowledge and skills,” Pino told Sudan Tribune.

Out 25 students awarded a Bachelors degree on Friday, Anyuat John, also from South Sudan, said the new country needs engineers and that he was willing to contribute technical assistance.

The graduates covered many of the areas in which South Sudan is lacking including: information technology (IT), social work and social administration, education in both sciences and arts among other courses.

Aware that it is unlikely they will be able to get a much sought after government job or become a state employee, the students say they are prepared to work as personal entrepreneurs and in other private sectors.

“If you say I have a degree in such a field without showing practicality, I don’t think you will be proud,” said Inyakua Esther Irama, a mother of two who graduated today, receiving a Bachelor of Education in Arts. A teacher in Fulla secondary school in Nimule, Eastern Equatoria state, Inyakua studied as an in-service student; attending classes only toward every end of semester exams.

Though the war-ravaged region gained independence in July, students who started education in East African countries prefer to pursue their university education outside South Sudan but then find it is the only country they can find work.

At a ceremony conducted at Ndejje University Main Campus in Luwero district, about 40 km north of Kampala, the South Sudanese graduates celebrated their graduation long into the night with their colleagues.

(ST)