Monday, February 01, 2021

Looking Back and Looking Forward

 By John A. Akec* 


The year 2020 was one of a kind for the global community, South Sudan included. It will be remembered for the worst public health crisis in a century due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-Cov-2 virus. All of us had to cope with the impact of a pandemic that took lives and left economies across the globe in tatters. No country was spared. A second wave of this pandemic is wreaking havoc in parts of the world, aggravated by new variants B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 that are 40% to 74% more contagious, according to a report by The New Scientist, a weekly science magazine.

Looking back, we at the University of Juba had our share of grief and sadness. A number of colleagues died due to various illnesses. They include Professor Aggrey Ayuen Majok, former Vice Chancellor of Dr John Garang Memorial University for Science and Technology and  Rumbek University of Science and Technology, and founding Dean of the School of  Veterinary Sciences at the University of Juba; Mr Simon Monoja Lubang, Associate Professor at the School of Social and Economic Studies, and former Director of Centre for Peace and Development Studies; and most recently Professor Samson Samuel Wassara, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Bahr el Ghazal, two times Dean of School of Social and Economic Studies, and two times Director of the Institute of Peace, Development and Security Studies; Mr Andrea Ahmed Bawal, former and long-serving head of Personnel at University of Juba; Mr Yanga Joseph Lagu, a technician at Department of Fisheries, and so many others. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families and friends.

On a more positive note, we were able to make progress on several fronts. Foremost, our University was able to organize and contribute to national efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. We participated in two government’s high level taskforces on COVID-19 and colleagues are still serving on the Medical Advisory Panel (MAP) of the High Level Taskforce on COVID-19.  Our students volunteered in case contacts tracing.  Our technical committee provided public education on how our population can protect itself from the virus. We also collaborated with the UNDP to conduct a rapid socio-economic impact assessment on gender equity in South Sudan due to pandemic which was used to review lockdown policies. 

Last year was also unique in that from February 2020, we had 12-hour power on the main campus, and 24-hour electricity in staff and student residences. We were able to reopen the University amid fears of the pandemic despite losing months of the academic year. And although our University had experienced several student unrests in the past year due to opposition to tuition fees payment, we were able to restore order and calm to the campuses. The crisis enabled us to improve our registration system and student identity cards production capacity.

On infrastructure front, much progress has been achieved to improve our physical environment. These included the inauguration of a renovated Al Sammani Hall in February; expansion of landscaping and paving of the campus; conversion of a store into a 220-seat lecture hall; turning a disused building into engineering laboratory; construction of additional student washrooms; maintenance of 20 seminar rooms with a combined capacity of 400 seats at our Centre of Human Resources Development and Continuing Education (CHRDCE); maintenance of the main chemistry laboratory; maintenance and refurbishing of University Clinic; and launching of a new waste management unit.  At the Customs (Western) Campus, a new gate with improved access was erected; the biotechnology, geology, and physics laboratories were maintained; and solar-powered lighting was installed for improved security at night.

In student residences, washrooms were maintained at girls’ hostel, and an accommodation block with 160-bed capacity was maintained at Ramciel boys’ quarters.

Looking forward, a campus-wide Wi-Fi internet connection will be launched in February 2021; more student washrooms at both campuses will be maintained or added; buildings at the School of Computer Science and Information Technology will receive a face-lift; and access to our main administration building will be enhanced, among others. 

Last but not least, we have recognized colleagues who made very significant contributions to the life of the University in 2020. I also thank every single staff of our University for making valuable contributions in 2020. I am very sure 2021 will come with challenges, but also  exciting opportunities and blessings. Best wishes for a happy new year.   

 *First published in JUVARSITY News Letter, January 2021


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