OpEd, Politics

Prof. John Akec and Prof. Samani outguess other VCs

From the time of its inception to when it began admitting students, the University of Juba had three Vice Chancellors. Prof. Mohamed Obeid El Mubarak was appointed by H.E Jafaar Nimeri, the then President of Sudan as the Vice Chancellor of the University of Juba but was surprisingly relieved the following day and reappointed the first Vice Chancellor of the University of Gezira.

Prof. Abdalla El Tayeb succeeded him as the second Vice Chancellor of the University of Juba. Having worked for three months, Prof. Abdalla Tayeb visited Southern Sudan to acquaint himself with the situation, but upon his return to Khartoum, he resigned, citing, “I did not find a university in Juba, what I found was an empty space and a tree”.

Then Prof. Samani Abdalla Yacoub was appointed the 3rd Vice-Chancellor. Swearing that ‘I must chew my shoes if the University of Juba does not take a different shape within three months, Prof. Samani did not chew his shoes but fulfilled his promise by lifting the university from where it was branded as an empty space to an occupied space.

But because God had established a university in heaven but had wanted Prof. Samani Abdalla Yacoub to lay a strong foundation he had laid in the University of Juba, Prof. Samani died in a plane crash near Malakal. May his professorial soul continue resting in eternal peace.

Then Prof. Awad Abuszeid was appointed the 4th Vice Chancellor to turn the stones Prof. Samani had left unturned. To cut a long story short, the University of Juba, despite tremendous efforts being exerted by the Vice Chancellors, suffered negligence and underfunding even under its own son serving in Khartoum government as a Minister of Higher Education.

God works in strange ways. In March 2014, clouds formed, and the sky looked foggy, breaches started falling, followed by a heavy rain that began at 8:00 PM till morning. The rain was Prof. Dr John Akec Aporout, the recently relieved Vice Chancellor of the University of Juba.

After having been suppressed to facelift the University of Northern Bahr El Ghazal as its founding Vice Chancellor, Prof. John Akec was seen as a breath of fresh air, and thereafter, God sent His beloved angel Gabriel to break the news of the one and only candidate who could lead the University of Juba with the heart of emulating it with other universities in Africa and beyond.

From 2014 to date, the university has undergone a series of transformations and modifications which made it leap a hundred steps in the ranking of African universities. Anybody who desired to see bushes, grass and animals could not travel to zoos outside Juba but could enter the university and move down its corridors.  He must be welcomed by either a snake, rat or squirrel.

Songs being sung by birds could even be related to some of the songs being sung by our artists, but here now is the University of Juba with a beautiful face and body. Two well-built and well-furnished campuses, tens of colleges, now called schools, hundreds of lecturers and staff, football and basketball pitches, three gates, over 5000 students, out of the evening class program, masters and PhD students and many more.

A few people know how hard Prof John Akec used to milk himself to make sure the university operates since the government does not pay the staff monthly, but yearly. Undeniably, some of the structures supporting the stand of the University are John Akec’s own makings. Had he waited to see and hear from the government, the university would not have moved ahead those inches it had moved.

Trying hard to see the staff well-paid, Prof. Akec presented a new salary structure; the initiative any other VC could not dream about. But he had his voice heard; only that it is the government which is short of delivering services to the people.

The uniqueness of Prof. John Akec lies in the fact that he is one person in many, participating outside the academic community in the social and political environment pertaining to South Sudan; a heavy task other Vice Chancellors are short of.  From where he stopped, Prof. Robert Mayom took over and I’m sure he will keep the torch lighting.

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