Monday, 28 January 2013

Dispatches from Juba: Lessons from a young city

Nicodemus Minde, Juba South Sudan
South Sudan is just one and half years old. The country is making significant strides in state building. The country is doing quite well despite its tender age. For a fragile rentier state, South Sudan has made significant progress in various fields. The capital city Juba is booming with commercial activities. Kenyans, Eritreans, Ethiopians and Somali businessmen are making their presence felt. Most of these people are engaged in the hotelier business, commercial apartment business, real estate, banking and insurance among others. 


Just like many fragile post war state, Sudan is on the process of rebuilding its broken and dilapidated infrastructure. The south of Sudan has for many years been neglected by the government of Khartoum, making the southerner secondary citizens in their own country. This largely contributed to the war for independence that culminated with the signing of the CPA in 2005 and a subsequent referendum that lead to their independence in 2011. The country lacked proper roads, proper social amenities, and many other essential faculties. But the government has put a concerted amount of effort in road construction, maintenance of existing structures and other social amenities such as hospitals, schools, health centers among other things.

The University of Juba

This university has suffered a great among of neglect. Upon my visit to the university, I was shocked by the dilapidation of the structures, the lack of adequate staff, lack of facilities, dust etc. But my spirits were lifted by the desire for learning among the students, the thirst in knowledge and struggle for an education. Students were all over queing to get their notes printed out, some to photocopy due to inadequacy of funds. That desire for knowledge was further highlighted to me when I spoke to them. They were ready to listen, learn, help and be helped. Though they couldn't say it to me, I knew that they wished for better facilities, better infrastructure, better shades to sit and read and relax. I saw it on there faces that they needed a better library where they could seat and read, a well equipped library where they can borrow books and quench the thirst of knowledge. I could see them sit in groups, discussing and debating on topical issues. 

I visted the university Vice Chancellor. We spoke and he highlighted his desire to transform and build the university. For a man who was eduacted outside, worked in a prestigious university in Namibia, the desire to come back home and rebuild his country was indicative of the country's desire for progress. He explained it to me that he faced mounting challenges but he faces them with courage and determination. These are inspiring stories that we learn from South Sudan. With the little they have they take them graciously and make meaning to it through desire and progress.

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