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Upper Nile University seeks to reopen in Juba

Atekdit Mawien
Following the destruction of its campuses by violent conflict in South Sudan, the Upper Nile University seeks to reopen in Juba.
24.04.2015  |  Juba
The main gate of the Upper Nile University in Malakal, July 7, 2013.
The main gate of the Upper Nile University in Malakal, July 7, 2013.

Universities in South Sudan have been among the victims of the extended violence and insecurity in the country. Among South Sudan’s five public universities, Upper Nile University was among the worst affected, halting education at its two main campuses in the Upper Nile State towns of Renk and Malakal, where opposition forces waged extended war to gain control.

Also read about the recent fighting in Malakal:
Fighting in Malakal town increases fear and tension in the civilian population in Upper Nile
When fighting broke out in Malakal and Renk in 2013, the Upper Nile University was in the middle of its final examinations.

Due to clashes, the exams were halted by an order from the Vice Chancellor and all university students and lecturers were sent to a United Nation’s-run displaced persons camp before they fled to Juba. Some exams were later held in Juba, Wau and Khartoum examination centres but the university has not been able to resume tuition.

Buildings belonging to the Upper Nile University in Malakal have been razed to the ground with SPLA and opposition forces switching control of the town back and forth, leaving behind a skeleton town. Public institutions, such as the university, were destroyed and looted, according to officials.
The John Garang Memorial University, located in Bor town, was also destroyed by the fighting  but eventually reopened in February 2015. South Sudan’s other universities are up and running.

Now Upper Nile University is planning to reopen towards the end of April or early May. We officially applied to the National Council for Higher Education to allow us to relocate to Juba, the national capital of the Republic of South Sudan,” The University’s Vice Chancellor Isaac Cuir Riak said, adding that people find it safer in the capital than elsewhere in the country. This has been a normal practice in South Sudan’s history. The Universities of Juba, Bahr el-Ghazal and Upper Nile were relocated to Khartoum during the South Sudan’s war of liberation.”

We officially applied to the National Council for Higher Education to allow us to relocate to Juba.”
Isaac Cuir Riak
Over the last 16 months the Upper Nile University was turned into a ghost campus, Cuir said, adding that his team has asked for funds from the government and other partners to help them restart academic activities. The Vice Chancellor said that two campuses have been found in the capital, including 20 lecturing halls, which will be used as a base for this new chapter.

The initial headquarter will be the Egyptian built Institute in Munuki, which will be its headquarters, and it will also hold afternoon lectures in the Islamic Institute, near Konyokonyo Market.

We are intending to renovate the Munuki Campus but there is still a lot to be done,” Cuir said, adding that he expects it to be completed in three or four weeks. We also want to construct pit latrines and about 14 prefabs for library, offices, laboratory rooms, computer lab and additional halls to make full accommodation for our faculties in Munuki.”
Senior managers met earlier this month to estimate the cost of renovation, latrines and prefabs construction before sending the budget to the Minister of Education, Dr. John Gai who intends to visit the UNU Chancellor and the President of the Republic of South Sudan within the week.

However, the building work depends on officials providing funds, raising a question mark over the plan. The university management team has estimated that a budget of SSP 42 million (US$ 13 million) would be needed to relaunch the university.

South Sudan’s five public universities are:
- Juba;
- Bahr el Ghazal;
- Rumbek;
- John Garang Memorial;
- Upper Nile University.
Dr. Cuir pointed out that the country’s economy remains crippled by the ongoing crisis and the drop in global oil prices, a commodity which provides more than 90 percent of South Sudan’s national income. He said that if the Ministry of Finance could pay the SSP 10 million it owes to the university, it would be able to restart.

The country’s leadership is with us and this week we intend to meet with the Minister who plans to meet with the president to see if we can get at least the arrears that the Ministry of Finance owes us. Currently we have only SSP 1 million in the account,” he said.

Prof Cuir advised the students not to lose hope. The students should have patience. It has been now a long time they have waited for us patiently. I think it is not difficult for them to wait for another three weeks in which we plan to re-open our University in May,” he said.

Due to a lack of space and resources, students will be expected to find their own places to stay whereas accommodation was provided in the Renk and Malakal campuses.