Thursday May 29 2014

Advice for South Sudan on education and peace

Requests for South Sudanese students to pay uniform home fees with Ugandan citizens in our public universities are okay.

This is because South Sudan is a young nation that emerged from the ruins of war just a few years ago. In addition, South Sudan is a critical neighbour with ethnic, trade and close political ties to Uganda.

However, Juba wants Uganda to stretch the favour and allot 2,000 scholarships to South Sudan students to study in Uganda’s six public universities for free.

On the contrary, South Sudan has closed its ears to calls for a coalition government to end the war with itself and sort out the problems so they do not burden neighbours with similar petitions. Juba’s reluctance to end the war is precisely where Uganda must challenge their requests.

First, Uganda must tell South Sudan to choose its competing priorities correctly. In an interview with this newspaper, South Sudan’s deputy minister for Education, Science and Technology, Mr Bol Makueng Yuol, dismissed those pushing for the formation of a coalition government in South Sudan as day dreamers.

This is a disturbing statement, more so coming from a minister of a key sector like education that cannot function in a situation of war.

Mr Yuol, and indeed the entire leadership in South Sudan, must recognise that war and education are tied and South Sudan must make tough choices. Uganda should encourage Juba to give priority to peace if they are to transform their own education sector.

As it is, a coalition government is a viable means to ending the war, thus creating a good climate for development, including in education. That is why it is crucial that South Sudan honours the Addis Ababa accord. Blowing off the peace deal is an unacceptable cost for South Sudan citizens and their neighbours, including Uganda, to pay.

Second, South Sudan leaders must do more for their citizens. Uganda’s only concession to South Sudan should be on a quid pro quo basis, including extending a loan, which should be repayable once peace returns.

South Sudan needs to be reminded that our own students are obliged to pay the monies government plans to award them to pay for higher education.

Third, South Sudan must know that Uganda hardly affords its own obligations to educate own citizens. Currently, Uganda affords tuition for only 4,000 students in its public universities of Makerere, Kyambogo, Busitema, Mbarara, Gulu and Muni.
It would, therefore, be an abdication of our government’s obligation to bypass financing higher education of our own citizens in favour of South Sudanese.