OpEd, Politics

A Response to Mr. Malek Arol Dhieu’s article, titled: “What the New VC of the University Should Improve” published in No. 1 Citizen Daily Newspaper of Monday, May 20, 2024

By Rev. Prof. Milton Melingasuk Lado


The University of Juba, a public institution, appreciates opinions and comments on the management of the university. We therefore welcome the remarks made by Mr. Malek Arol Dhieu, to which we briefly respond.

At the outset, Mr. Dhieu claimed that Professor John Akec, the former VC, said that ‘education is not for the poor’. We do not think that this comment was made by the former VC. During Prof John Akec’s tenure, there was a strong push to increase student enrollment. At present, the number of students is close to 40,000, which is higher than the total number of students in the other four public universities. Many of these students are from underprivileged backgrounds with most of the well-to-do students likely studying in universities in Uganda, Kenya, and other countries where fees are much higher.

Because of rising student numbers, driven by the ever-increasing demand for higher education, the University is finding it harder and harder to provide adequate spaces for teaching and learning. Accordingly, the writer’s advice about building lecture halls and other facilities is in place. In fact, we are working on this, as acknowledged by the writer himself. We appreciate the writer’s positive remarks about the renovation of lecture halls and other facilities as well as the improvement of the university landscape. But we need to remind the writer that this was made possible by the fees paid by students.

For a very long time, we have not received public development funds. So, we have to charge fees to provide education. With the funds collected from students, we will continue to improve existing teaching and research facilities and add new ones. Indeed, only recently have we completed the building of a large lecture theatre on the Custom Campus, which seats close to 400 students. Moreover, we are adding a new floor on one of the buildings on the Main Campus while renovation works proceed.

More importantly, we started the construction of a seven-floor building in the Custom area. Once completed, this facility will solve all the space problems facing us as an institution. The excavation work is completed. This was also made possible largely due to fees paid by students and also borrowing of funds from a commercial bank. We tried to raise more funds by holding a huge fundraising event, but the response was disappointing. In fact, pledges were made but up to now, these have remained pledges. Because of lack of funds, we had to pause the construction of this huge building and will hopefully resume when our financial situation improves.

At the moment our financial needs are huge, needless to say, that unfortunately due to the huge needs of our students and staff. We have to spend millions of SSP on electricity and the internet, which are vital. Imagine if we did not have power and could not turn on the fans and air conditioners in classrooms, offices, and other facilities during the time of extreme heat. Would it be possible to teach in the classrooms and work in the offices during this time?

Another complaint by the writer is about the performance of our academic and non-academic staff. Yes, we are aware that some staff have not been doing exactly what they are supposed to do. One time, we learnt about an academic staff and support staff taking money from students illegally. We investigated and dismissed all of them. We do not tolerate corruption and other acts of indiscipline.

However, we want to remind the writer and others that the majority of our staff are law-abiding and doing their work in an exceptionally hostile environment. Imagine reporting to offices or classrooms day in and day out without receiving salaries or wages for over six months. Can’t the writer and others who are complaining empathize with the sacrifices that the staff are making!

Despite the difficult environment, we are recruiting more staff from inside the country and abroad. We have recently employed over 80 academics from Sudan. We are paying them mainly from fees collected from students. When the government is able to fully fund our activities, the need to charge fees will reduce or even disappear entirely.

The writer also complained about quality of other facilities, especially the library and student halls of residence. We cannot do all that the writer expects us to do due to limited funds. The money we raise from students, internationally funded projects and other sources are not sufficient to enable us to buy all required recently published books and provide sufficient quality halls of residence to students. We will continue to solicit funds from various sources so as to improve the services we provide to students and staff.

About student feeding, it became difficult to continue providing meals also because of limited resources. Recall that students in some universities are on strike because of the same problem.

We have noted some of the issues with management of ID card production and distribution, gates management, examinations, etc. which the writer raised. We will look into them and address them where possible.

However, the writer should also note that we are a public institution and often come under pressure. One time, we called the police to evict people who are not supposed to be residing in the hostels but the students caused a mayhem. Moreover, unfortunately, some politicians came in to support the students and so undermined our ability to organize the hostels. So, as the writer says, some people have turned hostels into their “fathers’ houses”.

In summary, we will carefully examine the complaints by the writer, and take appropriate actions to correct shortcomings where feasible. But we would like to impress upon the writer that we will not be able to improve the quality of teaching, research, and outreach activities if the students fail or refuse to pay fees and the government is not providing funds to improve infrastructure and for purchasing equipment and chemicals to enable us to carry out practical classes for science-based schools. Quality has to do a lot with resources, resources, resources!


The author is the Director, Directorate of International Cooperation and Alumni Affairs, University of Juba. He can be reached via Tel.: +211 921665562 Email: miltonlado@hotmail.com


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