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Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Yien Oral Lam, Ambassador of Japan to South Sudan Seiji Okada, UNDP Resident Representative Dr. Kamil Kamaluddeen launch the reconstruction project (Photo: UNDP)

By Jale Richard

Reconstruction works have begun on Upper Nile University in Malakal after a ground breaking ceremony was held on June 29.

The ceremony was attended by a high-level delegation of government, academic, and UN officials, according to a joint statement from UNDP and Embassy of Japan.

The ceremony was presided over by the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology Yien Oral Lam, the Ambassador of Japan to South Sudan Seiji Okada, UNDP Resident Representative Dr. Kamil Kamaluddeen, and Dr. Yoanes Edward A. Kugo, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at Upper Nile University.

In April, the government, UNDP and the Japanese embassy signed an agreement for reconstruction of Upper Nile University’s Malakal campus, and the establishment of the University of Juba Cultural Centre.

“Today our dreams are becoming a reality, work is kicking off and we will continue to keep the momentum moving forward together until this job is done,” the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology Yien Oral Lamu Tut said during his remarks at the ceremony.

He appreciated the people and Government of Japan and UNDP for their commitment to restore Upper Nile University.

Peter Chol Wal, Central Upper Nile State Governor said the return of the University is a sign of life and a sign of prosperity returning to Malakal town.

“This ground breaking shows readiness not only for the return of the university but of any of those from this region ready to return,” Governor Wal said.

“The time is now for rebuilding and you have my assurances of the highest regard that the government of Central Upper Nile State will ensure the security of the rehabilitation works as well as maintain the peace in Malakal town,” he added.

Ambassador Okada said the Government of Japan was very glad to support the reconstruction of Upper Nile University as they see the importance of education.

“It is also symbolic of the on-going peace process, which Japan is supporting, and restoration of security in the region. The return of 5,000 students and personnel will be the key, and we hope it offers local people job-opportunities and will benefit people across the country. We hope to see reconstruction completed quickly and I hope to return to Malakal very soon with our dedicated partners for an inauguration of the campus,” said ambassador Okada.

The renovation work will focus on key facilities of the main campus aimed at enabling students specializing in EconomicsHuman DevelopmentPublic Health, and Education to be able to relocate back to their home campus.

“Once this campus is reconstructed, the university will impart knowledge to our young men and women, our future, who need the skills and expertise to move our country forward. With support from partners, we now see hope and we see light, because of your concern and devotion to see this university through,” said Chairperson of the Upper Nile University Council Dr. Samson Samuel Wasara.

UNDP’s Resident Representative, Dr. Kamil Kamaluddeen, said that the project will seek to use local materials and local labour to accomplish the reconstruction requirements.

“Rebuilding Upper Nile University is not about restoring to a previous starting point, but about building back better. This university, and the wider Upper Nile region, must become places where people wish to return–not for physical structures – but for opportunities to pursue their dreams: to work, to earn a decent income, and to provide for their families,” Kamaluddeen said.

“Part of the way that UNDP does business is to ensure and see to it that the local communities are benefiting. We want to put that multiplier effect in action here,” he added.

Upper Nile University was destroyed during the civil war that displaced thousands from Malakal. The university was transferred to Juba but challenges of learning space and accommodation continued to face the students.

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