I wrote this story for “In Sudan” magazine September 2010 edition. To see the full magazine please click on the image below & my story is on page 16.
A year and a half after it was looted and closed down due to violent clashes between rival military forces, Upper Nile University is up and running again.
Damages to the university during the February 2009 conflict between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) came to about 25 million SDG ($10 million), according to its acting principal, Prof. Lino Libo Ador.
Public and environmental health student Jacob Ishag was a first year student at the time, living at the university residence. “I had to return to my hometown in West-Darfur for six months after the crisis. I was very sad to be unable to continue my education for one semester.”
The institution languished until April 2009, when Prof. Bol Deng was appointed its new vice-chancellor. One of his first tasks was to request the assistance of the Government of National Unity and Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) to reopen it.
“The national government contributed around one million SDG ($400,000) that was channelled through the Unity Fund,” said Prof. Ador. “The Government of Southern Sudan contributed around 500,000 SDG($200,000).” [The Unity Fund consists of monies allocated by the national government to develop Southern Sudan in making continued union with the north attractive.]
With the help of this financing, the university rebuilt itself up and opened again in September 2009. It currently hosts 3,744 students on three campuses in Malakal, Renk and Khartoum (in the north), said Prof. Ador.
“The programmes that we have so far are only undergraduate level, but maybe next year we will start the graduate degree programme,” he added.
The only public university in the state, Upper Nile is one of the oldest and most developed centres of higher learning in Sudan. Founded by the national government almost two decades ago, the university’s initial three faculties — education, natural resources and environmental science and medicine — have now grown to eight.
Public and environmental health and human development were added as new faculties, while natural resources and environmental science were broken down into agriculture, forestry, animal production and veterinary medicine. The university also has an outreach centre to distribute information on women and children.
To boost its standards, the institution has entered into partnership with Norway’s Oslo University and Akershus University College.
In co-operation with Akershus, Upper Nile is developing a bachelor’s programme in vocational teacher education. It will also be offering a master’s programme in multicultural and international education with Oslo University College.
Upper Nile is also part of the Norwegian north-south Fredskorpset staff exchange programme.
“Oslo University has sent several lecturers to Malakal and our university has sent lecturers to Oslo University and Akershus University College,” said Prof. Ador. So far, two Sudanese lecturers have participated in the exchange programme, which began in 2006 and runs until 2011 with the possibility of extension.
“I was sent to Akershus University College from September 2008 to 2009 to learn about its curriculum so I can apply it accordingly to Upper Nile University,” said Sabet Akwa Kwan, an English lecturer in the Faculty of Education.
Despite challenges the university has faced, some graduates from Upper Nile have gone on to lead successful careers, the acting principal said.
“One of our graduates now is a member of Upper Nile State parliament, Thon Bany,” said Prof. Ador. “Some of them are even employed at the GoSS level or as principals of secondary schools all over South Sudan.”
The February 2009 clash that closed down Upper Nile University was the second time it had fallen prey to violence.
In 2006, the institution suffered a similar fate after being rampaged during another confrontation between the Sudan Armed Forces and Sudan People’s Liberation Army, which left two staff members injured, according to Acting Principal Prof. Lino Libo Ador.
Despite the government refurbishments, the university is still looking for additional funds to cover the February 2009 losses, the acting principal said.
In 2009, UNMIS donate 29,000 SDG ($11,600) to refurbish the university library.
Plans are underway by UNMIS to donate computers and multimedia equipment and also to begin a capacity-building project in the university, said Prof. Ador.