OpEd, Politics

Prof. John Akec is that leader who comes once in a generation

From 2014 downwards, the University of Juba was a home for squirrels, snakes, rats, bats, termites, birds, and other small animals, which are not supposed to inhabit a university, but a game reserve.

The now territory of French Institute was a good grazing land for cattle. It was full of water and green pastures. The garage and Department of Animal Production were in a thick bush.

Up to 2017, Al Samani Hall was a lecture hall and a beehive at the same time. There was a huge swarm of bees at the main entrance. Any time, bees could chase away students and lecturers and occupy the hall to receive a lecture of their own. Bats could interrupt afternoon lectures when they could exit the offices and halls to hunt for food outside.

If students forgot about handouts in the lecture halls, they could find them in pieces in the morning. Rats have chopped them thoroughly as if they were smeared with G/nut paste. There were no enough toilets. The few ones available were hell on earth. If a call of nature forced a student to go to the toilet, that student must remain outside the lecture hall for nearly 30 minutes so that the smell first evaporates. The whole university used to look like an abandoned building.

The registration of students was done in the respective colleges, now schools. So, the Deans used to sharpen their teeth of corruption every academic year. The academic calendar was like this economic crisis. It kept fluctuating on a yearly basis. So, a course for 4 years could take 6 or 7. A course of 5 years could take 8 or 9 and a course of 6 years could take 10 or 11 years.

The university laboratories were occupied by apparatuses and reagents of the 1980s, too toxic to be still in use in 2000s. The library was full of antiquated books. Imagine being taught with a 25th edition in the class and when you go to the library, you could get a 4th edition, 21 edition difference. What a very expensive joke!

With the appointment of Prof. John Akec in 2014, he believed that looking at the government’s eyes to spoon-feed the university was a waste of precious time. He centralised the administration to make sure a chance for change could be found. The tuition fees that used to disappear at the colleges’ level were all channelized into the university’s bank account and all that corrupt academicians could best do was to salivate, but no way to quench their thirst for money.

He then increased the tuition fees and elevated the private admission to generate more money. Having little money at hand, he began beautifying the face of the university. The lecture halls were renovated and new ones built. The toilets were renovated and new ones built. A new blood was transfused into the library’s body. It was equipped with up-to-date books and American and Japanese Corners were built to help students in the provision of other necessary scholastic materials. The then 12-College University of Juba was expanded to a big university with nearly 20 Colleges, now called Schools.

Electricity and WIFI were installed to help in Zoom lectures and internet access for the students. Benches were fixed everywhere in the university to help students cope with hanging around for the next lectures. Who knew Custom Campus was part of the University of Juba? People knew it was part of Nyakuron market. But now, it is well-demarcated with fine-looking halls fixed in it.

Throughout the 7 years I have spent at the University of Juba, I have viewed Prof. John Akec from all angles. First, outside his shadow as a mere student and, second, inside his shadow as a students’ leader, presiding over Juba University Medical Students’ Association. In 2020 during the COVID-19 Pandemic, he appointed me as a Member of a Technical Committee for the University of Juba COVID-19 Taskforce. Our distance then became immeasurable and I came to conclude that he is a god of service delivery.

In South Sudan, there are very few leaders who can change a messed-up system and fix a new system. When the universities were closed down during COVID-19 Pandemic, he fought tooth and nail, drafting Plan A to Plan E, just to have the University of Juba reopened. He kept increasing the tuition fees in part to nauseate the government release money and in part to augment the workflow of the university.

When the salary delays, he pays lecturers using the university’s money. When he sees the government is taking his payment of lecturers as an advantage, he can organise a peaceful protest to pressurise the government to release the salary. He augmented and improved the Postgraduate Programs and initiated the Evening Class Program.

The international ties between the University of Juba and other universities in Africa and beyond were reinvigorated and strengthened and this opened doors for MoUs, donations, scholarships, and mutual benefits. This made it get a rank.

I’m a human being, I cannot remember all the achievements of Prof. Akec Apuruot. Before Prof. John Akec was appointed a Vice-chancellor, he was a human being. So, if there are pending issues still unimproved, it is that he is a human being. Even Jesus Christ, in his entire 33-year life, left a number of burning issues unsolved and we all know he’s a son of God.

To me, Prof. John Akec was not only a VC, but also a citizen with South Sudan imprinted on his heart. He has fought a beyond-VC war. Of course, he was the president of a small nation within the big one, University of Juba. He saved the Sudd Wetlands and the university land grabbed by public property eaters. He was more than a VC. I pray that God gives him another fat opportunity.

To the new VC, Prof. Robert Mayom, he is a twin brother to Prof. John Akec. No doubt about that. I recommend that more light should be shed on the setting of examinations, marking, entering and release of academic results. There is some sort of manipulation and leakage of examinations. Some examinations are substandard, while others are overstandard because it seems like the examinations do not pass through the panels of examiners for check and balance.

The annoying issue is the delay of academic results. Results come out when the students have already registered and received lectures in the next classes and it is a very expensive joke to bring back students to their previous classes. This will allure court cases, I prophesy. Another major issue is lack of enough lecture halls. Now that cafeteria is turned into a beautiful building and named “UNIPOD, does this mean the main cafeteria for student meals is buried at all? Or is there a chance for its resurrection?

To end, most of the students who have occupied the three hostels are those who graduated some years ago. Some of them are even lecturers. So, why would lecturers share hostels with students? How safe are the tests, examinations and results? I urge the new VC to look at any problem as a problem. Remember a small leak can sink a ship.


Thanks for reading “Sowing The Seed Of Truth”.

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