HigherEd by xiangpeng



                   PAST, PRESENT, AND THE WAY FORWARD.

                               Dr. Charles Saki Bakheit
                       Former Academic Secretary, Juba University

At the oversubscribed 1947 Juba Conference, Southern Sudan was represented by a
number of chiefs, who probably could neither read nor write, and a bunch of handpicked
junior clerks, who likely never went beyond intermediate schools. Facing them, across
the conference table, were three delegations: The British contingence from Khartoum,
who were all members of the Sudanese Political Service, drawn mostly from graduates of
Oxford and Cambridge; the Northern delegation that boasted of some university and
college graduates; and the British contingence from the South, made up largely of retired
officers from the British army, known as the bog barons, who must have been trained to
the level of Sandhurst. It was no wonder that southerners ended up with the result that is
quoted until today that the South agreed to unite with the North. Moreover, some
historians believe that, that conference was merely a ploy by the British to rubberstamp a
decision they had already taken, under pressure from the Egyptians and Northern
Sudanese politicians, to formally annex the South to the North.

The history of higher education in the South is very short, almost contemporary, and is
almost synonymous with the history of the University of Juba. I must therefore be
forgiven if I dwell a lot on the evolution of the University of Juba and its fortunes, in my

Up to 1975, there was not a single post secondary institution in the South, reflecting the
utter neglect and underdevelopment of the South by northern regimes since Sudan
attained independence in 1956. The first part of the paper gives a brief history of higher
education in the South. By higher education, I mean post secondary institutions, such as
higher institutes, colleges and universities. I shall then dwell on the current status of
higher education in Southern Sudan. This is followed by a list of proposals to meet the
challenges of the development of higher education in the interim period and in a future
independent Southern Sudan. In conclusion I propose a resolution to be passed that will
involve our youth and academics both at home and in the Diaspora in shaping the
direction higher education will have to take in a future Southern Sudan, both during the
interim period and beyond.

The paper is not intended to provide full answers to the issues of higher education in the
south, but rather to raise our awareness of where we are, in terms of higher education,
and of the enormity of the task ahead and to encourage discussions among those of us
involved in higher education, with the aim of getting involved in shaping a future policy
for the country that is realistic, realizable, and that will bring our society rapidly into the
twenty first century. Southern Sudan may boast of enormous natural resources that are

yet waiting to be exploited. However, its most precious resource is, without a shadow of
doubt, its still untapped human resources, whose development is the linchpin of that of all
these resources.

Historical Background
The legitimate grievance of the South about lack of an institution of higher learning was
formally raised by southerners at the Round Table Conference, held in Khartoum, in
March 1965. Like all the other recommendations of that conference, the idea was never
implemented. In 1971, the annual Erkweit Conference of the Sudan Philosophical Society
was held in Juba that year, and it recommended that the University of Khartoum extend
its Extra-Mural programme to the Southern Sudan. One can only speculate as to the
reasons that led this body to take the decision. Could it have been out of embarrassment
that one third of the country had been totally neglected in the provision of higher
educational institutions? Was this the best this supposedly august body of wise men and
women could do for the South, by recommending only an extra-mural programme? Still
it took Khartoum University four years to make up its mind on this modest request, and
the programme duly started in November 1975. This is significant in that it represented
the first time a university was extending its activities and benefits to the south of the
country, almost two decades after independence, and with the greatest reluctance from
the powers that be.

After the Addis Ababa agreement in 1972, the newly formed Regional Government of
Southern Sudan soon found itself in need of qualified and experienced civil servants, and
had to find ways for training its manpower rapidly and locally. In early 1973, the
regional government, through its Minister of Education at the time, requested the
National Council for Research (NCR) to undertake a feasibility study on the
establishment of a University in the South. The result was a document that recommended
the establishment of a post secondary institution with an emphasis on developing the vast
natural resources of the Southern Sudan. Based on the document, the regional
government set up the University of Juba project in 1973, with the Regional Minister as
Chairman, and the Regional Director of Education as its Director.

For two years the project was under the Regional Government, during which it also made
extensive contacts with international bodies for support and assistance. The majority of
these contacts advised against the establishment of the university because they defined
the need of the regional government narrowly to be just that of middle level cadre, and
argued that the Regional Government could not support a university at the time anyway.

While these consultations were going on, at the same time the Central Government was
also making plans to re-organize and expand higher education in the country. Partly
because the Regional Government couldn’t get external support for the project, and partly
becuase it depended entirely on the Central Government for its finances, the Juba
University project got incorporated into the Central Government plans. The highjacking
of the project by the Central Government has become a contentious issue between
Northerners and Southerners regarding the status of Juba University to this day.
Southerners consider the university legitimately theirs, to train cadre for its civil service

and exploitation of its natural resources for its economic and social development.
Northerners, on the other hand consider it just as any other university in the country, and
as such has made all efforts to arabize it and its curriculum, and put it under its policy of
excluding Southerners from running its affairs. The University was formally opened in
October 1977.

Since its inception, Juba University has been a university for the South only by accident
of location. Even this has been denied the South since 1989, when the University was
transferred to Khartoum, supposedly for security concerns, where it is to this day. It has
had nine different vice chancellors since its inception, most of them running it as a one-
man show. Of these nine, none comes from Southern Sudan. The Northern Sudanese
have controlled and charted the course of the University all the while, by extending the
long-standing discriminating policy of past and present Northern regimes of reserving
most positions of authority for Northerners. They even created the empty post of a
Deputy Vice Chancellor for southerners, to mimic the ceremonial post, tailored especially
for southerners, of the second Vice President of the Sudan.

The 1990’s brought about a spurt of new regional universities all over the country. This
wind of change ushered in the creation of the universities of Bahr el Ghazal and Upper
Nile. These two are considered more or less regional, and, unlike Juba University, are
not saddled with the burden of carrying out the national agenda of forging unity.
Nonetheless, they both suffer from chronic financial problems, lack of staff, basic
facilities, and lack proper direction. With some of the faculties operating in Wau and
Malakal and others in Khartoum, and given the poor communication between the latter
cities and Khartoum, running these universities poses logistic nightmares.

The Present Status of Higher Education in the Southern Sudan
Today, the Juba University motto of Relevance and Excellence is being severely tested in
Khartoum. The university has expanded from its original modest five colleges to thirteen
colleges and four centers, in the fourteen years it has been in Khartoum. This expansion
has been done without the provision of adequate infrastructure or resources to support it.
This huge baggage is ironically one of the major factors that are now preventing the
repatriation of the University back to Juba. The argument is now that there are no longer
enough buildings in Juba to accommodate the University. Yet there is enough money to
put up substandard buildings in a poor neighborhood of Khartoum called Kadaru, pay
hefty rents for office buildings and staff accommodation in Khartoum, pay colossal rents
for the use of facilities of the other universities in the capital for teaching, and spend
millions on part-time instructors. Much of this money can be used instead to upgrade and
expand the infrastructure of the University in Juba, to facilitate its repatriation.

The University has lost its primary objective of training manpower for the developmental
needs of the South and similar regions in the country. Instead it is now saddled with the
job of “forging national integration and promoting human and international
understanding”. Much of the expansion is aimed at meeting the manpower requirement of
the North as illustrated in the following paragraph.

All the three southern universities have become major employers for Northerners, in the
academic, administrative and technical segments. The percentages of Northerners
working in these universities range from as high as 80% in Juba University, to 60% in the
other two. In some colleges the figures are around 100%, especially among the teaching
assistants and administrators. The students’ body tells the same story. In most of the
colleges in the University of Juba, southern students make less that 50% of the students
body. In short, southerners find themselves a minority in their own university. Arabic has
been quietly introduced as the official administrative language in the University,
replacing English. This extra baggage of Northern staff and Northern students in these
universities have become added impediments to the return of the universities to the

 In June, this year, the Vice Chancellor of Juba University set up a committee, with an
all- Northern membership, to study the idea of repatriating the University. One of its task
is to carry out a survey of the staff, to find out if they want the University to return to
Juba or not! With the sizeable number of Northern staff, the conclusion of the survey is
pretty obvious. One would have expected that, with the prospect of peace round the
corner, such a committee would have been tasked instead to plan an orderly transfer of
the University back to Juba. They are even considering establishing two campuses, one in
Juba and the other in Khartoum. Should this take place, the campus in Juba will end
being merely Juba Branch of Juba University.

Right now, the three universities are facing horrendous difficulties. The staff and students
lack basic services, such as offices, lecture rooms, labs, library spaces, housing,
transportation, etc. The colleges and centers are scattered all over Khartoum, making
staff-student interaction impossible. All are bedeviled by financial difficulties, and often
landlords keep hiking the rents. For instance, Bahr el Ghazal University has had to
relocate its administrative office more than four times in ten years because it has been
unable to meet new rises in rent by greedy landlords. Staffs have also had to vacate
premises when the universities fail to pay their continually hiked rents. Funding for
research, sabbaticals, and scholarships for teaching assistants have long dried out,
although from the very beginning these activities were always under-funded. As a result,
appointments and promotions are no longer based on meritocracy but rather on political
and other non-academic affiliations. As a result, many people not qualified to teach at
university levels have found their way onto the university payrolls as instructors.
According to a senior member of the academic staff, the administrative structures are
cumbersome and archaic, and the current curriculums are badly in need of reviewing.

And yes, we are hearing that the Government of Sudan is planning to open yet another
university, this time in Torit, supposedly as a gesture of appreciation for having
recaptured it from the SPLA forces a few years back. I understand that there is also a
branch of Qur’an Al Karim University operating in Juba.

Future Challenges and the role of Southerners in Diaspora
Southerners have never owned or controlled higher education in the South in any
meaningful way. The inevitable question is what can be done in the near and long term to

reverse this sorry state of affair? What can we do in this regard, as Southern academics,
or as those of you in the Diaspora, especially those concerned with higher education? To
what extent has our political leadership addressed the problem of higher education in the
six peace protocols, for instance?

Reference to higher education in the current peace process is tersely mentioned in the
protocol on Power Sharing, Part V, Schedule D, under Concurrent Powers, item 3. It

“The National Government, and the Government of Southern Sudan and the State
governments, shall have legislative and executive competencies on any of the matters
listed below during the Interim Period:

        3. Tertiary education, education policy and scientific research”.

Clearly this statement does not say exactly which of the three arms of the government
should do what, but we can exploit its vagueness to our advantage. Nonetheless, it is
astonishing that, such an important matter of human resources development, on which
hinges the success of all future social and economic developments should be dressed in
such an ambiguous and sparse attire. However, upon enquiry, the SPLM negotiators
informed us that, it was left to those southerners expert in and concerned with higher
education, to work out the details of this statement, and the movement will provide the
legislative and executive frameworks to back them up. It is on this verbal commitment
that I suggest we take up the challenge, and take it seriously.

In this connection, I put to this Conference the following ten proposals for discussion and
further consideration:

   1.      Southern Sudan must have its own Council or Secretariat for Higher
           Education that will be responsible for developing higher education policy for
           the south, how it will be funded, staff development, overseeing the expansion
           and quality of higher education in the south.

   2.      Formation of a committee, consisting of staff of the three universities, to start
           planning for an orderly repatriation of the three southern universities to their
           rightful locations, immediately the interim period begins. It must be borne in
           mind that the southerners in these universities are themselves internally
           displaced, and as such must be extended all the assistance entitled to the
           internally displaced. Funds should be sought both locally and internationally
           for the repatriation to proceed simultaneously with development of the
           infrastructure. Enough land must be set aside for these institutions, so as to
           allow for their unfettered expansion in the future.

   3.      A committee of Southern Sudanese, with proven expertise in higher
           education, should be set up immediately to study ways to re-structure these
           universities, administratively and academically, so that they run more

     efficiently, with programs that are more geared to the needs and aspirations of
     the south, and employers, as well as to meet the educational challenges of the
     21st century, and provide southerners with opportunities to engage in lifelong
     learning. It is most encouraging to note that some Southern Sudanese
     academics are already involved in the exchange of views in this regard.

4.   As part of the re-structuring, conditions of service for academic as well as the
     technical and administrative staff of institutions of higher learning should be
     improved, in order to attract and retain high caliber staff.

5.   Appeals must go from this conference hall to all former Southern Sudanese
     academic staff of the three southern universities, who are now in the Diaspora,
     to return to their mother universities, so that these universities will benefit
     from their international experiences. In addition, all Southern Sudanese
     academics now in Diaspora, not affiliated to these universities should consider
     returning to support higher education in Southern Sudan. Those who choose
     not to return can still use their connections to build academic bridges between
     their institutions and those in the South, by initiating various programs like
     students and faculty exchanges, raising funds to support specific programs in
     the home institutions, and spending sabbaticals there.

     Those of you wishing to pursue academic career, are very much encouraged to
     do so. Moreover, recruitment of teaching assistants, faculty and administrative
     staff shall then be based on qualification, with priority given to southerners.
     Most likely, a significant number of Northern staff will not be moving to the
     South with the universities.

6.   Establishment of specialized institutes, colleges and polytechnics to cater for
     middle level cadre, in commerce, industry, and other technical fields.

7.   Establishment of research centers in appropriate locations to carry out
     research on the best ways to exploit and use our natural resources, in diverse
     fields such as agriculture, fisheries, animal husbandry, etc. This will require
     highly trained manpower in diverse fields. We need our young men and
     women in Diaspora to get the necessary skills for these awesome tasks. These
     research centers should have some sort of affiliation with the universities, so
     as to benefit from the pool of expertise in these institutions.

8.   Opening enough basic and secondary schools, well equipped and adequately
     staffed, to meet the needs of the higher institutions. Again, the need for
     attractive terms of service here cannot be over-emphasized, if we wish to
     bring in and retain talented people in the teaching profession to provide
     quality education to our children at all levels and locations.

    9.      Establishment of a separate admission office for Southern Universities and
            institutions of higher learning during the interim period, with an examinations
            setting body to go with it. We need to have control over who are admitted into
            our institutions, and be able to maintain fair play and high standard of entry.

    10.     Encourage the establishment of private higher institutions that will run side by
            side with public ones, with a well-instituted accreditation system to monitor
            their programs, and maintain excellent educational standards.

Naturally it very much depends on how high a priority the future Government of
Southern Sudan is going to give to education in general, and higher education in
particular. This will be measured by how much it is prepared to invest in quality
education, and the caliber and dedication of the people it will entrust with this enormous
task. It also depends on how much effort and dedication we, as individuals, are prepared
to put into our educational system to ensure its success. It is my hope that both the
leadership and we will rise to the occasion and give education the priority in deserves, for
the sake of the Southern Sudan. After all, without well-trained and dedicated workforce
and wise leadership, which are all products of a sound educational system, any
developmental programs for a nation, however well planned, are doomed to failure.

To conclude, my fervent hope is that, one of the resolutions this conference will pass,
should be to establish a high powered committee of Southern Sudanese academics and
educationists, with members drawn both from those in Diaspora and from inside the
country, to come up with a blue print for Higher Education in the Southern Sudan, within
a specified period of time. The plan can draw on some of the proposals stated here as well
as from other relevant sources. This should then be followed by a wide circulation of the
document among Southern academics for further discussion and scrutiny, after which the
committee will submit the final product to the relevant authority in the GOSS for
immediate action. We cannot and should not leave such an important task to amateurs or
the whims of politicians; otherwise history is going to judge us harshly. To catch up with
the rest of the neighboring countries, leave alone the rest of the world, we in Southern
Sudan do not have the luxury of simply walking the walk; we must run the run.

May I acknowledge the contributions of the many colleagues and friends with whom I
have exchanged views, and whose views are inevitably intertwined with mine in this
paper. I also thank the Conference organizers for giving me the honor and the platform
to share these views with my fellow EQUATORIANS. I very much regret not to be here
in person to share the deliberations of this conference with you all.


 Dr. Charles S. Bakheit’s paper on Higher Education in SS, ESCA-US Conference, Des Moines, IOWA,
Sept. 2004.

Current Faculties/Colleges/Centres and Institutes in the Three Universities in the South.

                                     University of Juba

F a c u l t i e s
2. Community Studies & Rural Development
3. School of Management Sciences
4. College of Medicine
5. College of Education
6. College of Social & Economic Studies
7. College of Applied & Industrial Science
8. College of Arts and Humanities
9. College of Art, Music and Drama
10. College of Computer Science and Information
11. College of Engineering and Architecture
12. College of Law
13. Graduate College

C e n t r e   s
1. College    of   Peace & Development Studies
2. College    of   Languages & Translation
3. College    of   Distance Education
4. College    of   Human Resources Development & Continuing Education.
                                 Upper Nile University

F    a c u l t i e s
1.    Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences
2.    Faculty of Agriculture
3.    Faculty of Animal Production and Fisheries
4.    Faculty of Forestry
5.    Faculty of Education
6.    Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
7.    Community College (Pending approval).

C e n t r e s
1. Child & Woman Studies centre
2. Computer Science Centre
                      University of Bahr-El-Ghazal

F    a c u l t i e s
1.    Faculty of Education
2.    Faculty of Veterinary Science
3.    Faculty of Medicine
4.    Faculty of Economics & Rural Development
5.    Graduate College

I n s t i t u t e s
1. Institute of Health Sciences

C e n t r e s
1. Computer Centre




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