By Juol Nhomngek
One of the things valued in any institution of higher learning like Juba University is academic freedom. This includes the freedom of students and staff to express their views without fear of reprisal from anyone or authorities.
The freedom in academic institution is intended to protect its integrity and at the same time promoting creativity among the students.
The academic creativity is the basis of theories and philosophy. The creativity helps students to have curiosity in anything that enable them to formulate hypothesis as a way of proving what they have observed and try to provide answers through imagination and interpretation.
This is not possible in the University where students stay under constant fear. Fear includes fear of future as well as fear of physical harrassment.
In the recent time due to the deep economic crisis caused by hyperinflation, the University of Juba, which is the only credible organization has increased tuition fees over 100%.
The increment of tuition fees by the University has sparked off negative reactions among students who responded with demonstration and other civil disobedience.
In response, the University of Juba called upon thousands of organized forces not only to quell the unrest in the University but also to ensure that the University is run under coercion and threats.
Consequently, 12 students were detained and are still under detention up to date.
In addition, the Vice Chancellor has banned all the demonstrations and any opposing voices within the University.
Some people may say that the University of Juba was right to take action against students but in my opinion, the students have all rights to protest against the increment of tuitions because of the following reasons:
First, when coming up with the policy such as increment of fees that may destroy the future of students and the country, there must be cause-effect research analysis.
The purpose of analysis is to find out as to what will be implications of the increment of fees on the rights to education of the students, which was not done.
As a matter of fact, majority of the students are from those families who are not able to sustain education with the increment of tuitions.
Second, in the standard of South Sudan with the frightening hyperinflation, every citizen is now in hardships and to be told to pay $ 200 which is about SSP 60,000 is a lot of money and tantamount to telling them to go home because they are not required to be educated by the government.
In other words, It is just telling those students to sit at home. This will have a negative implications on the future of South Sudan.
I should not be quoted to say that government should pay for all the students but what I am saying is that the education is the government commodity since it is a public good and the government has a duty to ensure that all citizens access it with ease.
The above points and others show that students were right to protest against the unfair policy. Their demonstration was as a matter of necessity.
In summary, Vice Chancellor in running the University like the army is the threat to the academic freedom. This is also proved by the fact that he fired an academician in 2018 simply because he argued with him on social media.