OpEd, Politics

What the new VC of the University of Juba should improve on

It is unfortunate that the tuition fees dance to the ugly tune of the dollar rate. As the dollar rate rises to a higher level every year, its tune makes the tuition fees crazy to jump two steps ahead of it.

The tuition fees have been on the rise since 2019, and are expected to continue being increased. Is tuition fee a commodity in the market? The current VC should reverse the mockery phrase of the former VC that “education is not for the poor”. Education is statusless. Both the rich and the poor can acquire it. The culture of increasing the tuition fees on yearly basis should come to an end.

Despite the fact that the three hostels are sanctuary places for bedbugs, the truth that students have signed a cessation of hostilities with the bedbugs on the condition that the signed-out students should leave the hostels should be respected. Bedbugs need new blood! It is surprising to say that some graduates from 2014 up to 2023 are still occupying the hostels today. Some are done with Masters and are now enrolling for a Ph.D program while still sharing dormitories with undergraduate students, are hostels their fathers’ houses? Hostels should be left for undergraduate students only.

If all the textbooks in the main library were put on a weighing scale, the side holding outdated textbooks would be far heavier than that holding updated textbooks. Even the updated textbooks are a bit antiquated by two editions from the latest textbooks. So, there is a need to wire the main library with the latest editions of textbooks to arm students with the latest information about their careers and the world’s status quo.

After registration, the registered students fill up the forms for the issuance of the university IDs. The processing of the IDs takes time. When unregistered students are being prevented from entering the university, students who have registered and submitted their ID forms are being prevented as well while the delay in the processing of their IDs is the university’s fault, not theirs. IDs should be processed as early as possible so that when unregistered students are locked out, they would not think of having any right to organize a strike.

When there are rumours of students organising a strike or the university issues an order to lock out unregistered students, the university deploys community police officers at all the gates. Such police officers are too arrogant to understand any explanation. Sometimes, it is worsened by the language barrier because they speak in Konyo-konyo Arabic mixed with local dialects while students speak in pure English language, hence resulting in misunderstanding. To students’ dismay, majority of police officers often deployed at the gates cannot read or even crossmatch the photos on the IDs with students’ faces. There is a need to deploy literate police officers who can read, write and correlate students’ conditions with what they have gone through when they were students.

The former VC of the University of Juba was much concerned about physical development of the university in which he, indeed, succeeded. However, the number of lecture halls has either remained the same or increased by one or two. What took place much was the renovation of the lecture halls, laboratories and university administration blocks. It is upon the shoulders of Prof. Robert Mayom, the current VC, to build new lecture halls.

As of now, lecture halls are being waited for like a dominoes game. Sometimes, it is done “first come, first served”. Two colleges can have lectures in the same hall at the same time, making students almost go for a lottery game so that the one who picks “first” goes first and the one who picks “second” remains behind. Sometimes, it angers students and lecturers to exchange harsh words and suspend lectures for tomorrow, hence affecting the timeframe for lectures.

It is with sadness I bring to people’s attention that there are some lecturers who ask students to pay for the handouts. So, the handouts are bought twice. There is an amount of money indicated for handouts in the registration forms and again students are asked to pay for them in class. Some lecturers are not following the format for teaching. They mark the examination papers out of 100% even if they have given tests, assignments and attendance. This shows that they do not consider the coursework and the attendance, leading to the failure of some students who could not have failed if the coursework had been considered.

Some unfortunate lecturers can delay giving lectures, but when the semester comes to an end, they give lectures in a crushed manner. Some are badly caught up by time to such an extent they give tests and assignments after students have already sat for the examinations. As far as the setting of examinations is concerned, some examinations are substandard while others are overstandard. There is no check and balance of the examinations by the college boards. Lecturers can set too shallow or too complicated examinations and give them to students without being regulated to fit the standards.

When marking begins, some lecturers give examination papers to their relatives, friends or even loved ones to mark. This is a malpractice of the highest degree. After marking, the results take the whole academic year unreleased. Sometimes, the results are released when students have already registered and received lectures in the next class. Would students who have failed be brought back to repeat the class?

For finalists, it is a very expensive joke. Finalists complete and celebrate their research projects when the results for two semesters are not yet released. A good example is the School of Social and Economics Studies. Finalists have completed their research projects while the results for semesters 7 and 8 are not yet released.

When results are released, a lot of disgusting errors occur. Some students are indicated “absent” while they have sat for all the examination papers and signed the attendance. Some students are given an “F” but when they apply for a remark, some of them get an “A”. It looks like they are given an “F” as a commercial tactic to pay money for supplementary examinations.

For graduates, it is a dismaying story to tell. As hard in South Sudan as getting a job, graduands are supposed to be provided with testimonials to help them start looking for jobs as early as possible. Shortly after graduation, they are issued their transcripts to go and try their luck in looking for jobs. But that is not the case with the University of Juba. Graduands are not given testimonials and the graduation itself takes another academic year to happen for the graduands to be given transcripts. So, a graduand who is lucky can get a job opportunity, but when asked to submit academic documents, not even a testimonial is there to show the completion of studies in the university.

The delay of the graduation ceremony contributes to the fluctuation of the academic calendar. By the time the graduation ceremony takes place, it gets the academic calendar almost coming to an end and this interferes with terminal lectures and other preparations for the examinations. This may force the university administration to push the examinations by two or three weeks, thus interfering with the academic calendar. I suggest that the graduation ceremony should be done 3 months, instead of 11 months as is the case now, after the end of the academic year.

Though the JUSU is a problem itself, the fact that it is a problem which solves other problems should not be forgotten. Acting as a bridge between students and the university administration, JUSU can solve half of students’ problems, hence a problem halved is a problem solved. The remaining half would be solved by the university administration and the whole problem gets solved.

There are a lot of opportunities and funds that come through the students’ union, the University of Juba is either missing such funds and opportunities or someone somewhere in the university may be consuming them. There is a need for the revival of Juba University Students’ Union even if it means reforming it from head to tail.

When the university cafeteria closed down in 2019, it closed because of a food shortage, cultivating an expectation that it would reopen when funds for the procurement of food are garnered. Funds were garnered, but unfortunately, the cafeteria was turned into a fine-looking building later named as UNIPOD.

Instead of naming it as UNIFOOD to give hope to the students that it may serve food any time, it was named UNIPOD, something completely far from food. Does this mean the feeding system for students is completely eliminated? That meal was almost nothing, but the truth that it used to break the students’ starvation could not be denied. Something is better than nothing! There is a need for the main cafeteria to resume operating.





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