By Christopher Sebit
Improved teachers’ salaries as well as additional remunerations in terms of incentives are key to raising the dramatically declining standard of the general and higher education in South Sudan.
Factors contributing to poor performance in the field of general and higher education are enormous and cumbersome. Their discussion cannot be satisfactorily done on a column space.
Therefore, the author is under obligation to focus only on teachers’ salaries being the most important and sensitive factor behind deteriorating standard of general and higher education in South Sudan.
Deteriorating standard of general education has negatively impacted the credible system for which our universities and higher institutions of learning used to be known for, respected, valued and recognized internally and externally.
It is worth mentioning that the poor teaching, coupled with crude and biased assessment of students’ standard at primary level has seriously interfered with their performances at the secondary level.
Equally true, crude and biased assessment of students’ performances at the secondary educational level has largely diluted the required minimum standard of higher education to the point forcing lecturers to abandon lecturing and seek alternative job opportunities internally or migrate to other countries that offer better remuneration for lecturers.
In fact, the students’ standards in our universities have seriously fallen down beyond tolerable limits. This is undisputed reality. The worse scenario at the higher level of education is a deliberate tendency by the universities, both public and private, to compromise strictness in the evaluation of students’ performances.
University of Juba, for instance, used to be known for its excellent, rigid and credible criteria for evaluating students’ performances. Where are these criteria? They are gone.
All that we hear is that students should not be dismissed for failing examinations; they should be given more chances to repeat a class or classes as long as they have the ability to do so. This is very unfair and demoralising to the students in the long-run. It leads to producing raw graduates who do not have confidence in themselves.
As it was previously practiced by University of Juba, a student must be allowed to repeat a class once, and she/he must be discontinued from studies if her/his grade is below the minimum grade for repeating the class.
The previous grading system of the University of Juba has produced many qualified and competent graduates who are now serving our nation at different levels of government.
Unless University of Juba urgently reverts back to its original grading system the probability that its motto, “excellence and relevance” continues to shine and attract overwhelming public attention and mobilizes international sympathy will approach zero. The consequence is loss of recognition!
The management system at the University of Juba must undergo rigorous reform now for the interest of our nation. The salaries of lecturers need to be paid regularly. Arrangements to pay their outstanding salaries must be made with immediate effect if the standard of the university is to be rescued from total collapse.
The national Ministry of Higher Education is obliged to urgently pay the outstanding salaries of lecturers working in public universities. Similarly, the national and state governments are under obligation to settle the six month salaries of teachers.
Teachers’ salaries are rights. A state with huge revenue generating capacity like Jubek State should not be allowed to escape the responsibility of paying teachers’ salaries.
The biggest issue in Jubek State is that the bulk of fiscal resources, which could have helped pay teachers’ salaries including other basic social services to the citizens are largely diverted to benefit only few politicians and top-government officials who are running the administration.
Juba City Council and the four viable counties: Rejaf, Lokiliri, Luri and Lado collect a great deal of fiscal resources, but as it is the case with the state authorities, these resources are frequently diverted to benefit a handful of politicians and administrators. This is the truth, which must be said.
In the light of deliberately imposed fiscal constraints, what is the right way for teachers to get their salaries paid? The author appreciates the non-violent action of the striking secondary school teachers in Jubek State.
Nonviolent approach for demanding rights is the cheapest and safest weapon of the oppressed professional teachers. Comrades, teachers of Jubek State, the path you have chosen to pursue your rights is legal and encouraging to all peace-loving citizens.
Please continue to press for payment of all your outstanding salaries. Salaries are rights of government employees, not privileges. Public service laws and regulations recognise the right of employees to receive monthly salaries.
Inability to pay the salaries of public servants for six months is a serious violation of the employment contract signed by the public servants and the government. The parents and guardians whose children are affected by the striking teachers are advised not to be indifferent to the unfolding scenario which is likely to jeopardise the future of their children.
They should come out peacefully and challenge those political elites who devote to or caring only for themselves and are obstructing the education of their children.
Like the teachers, the parents and guardians of the deprived children should refuse to go to work until the outstanding salaries of all employees, including that of teachers are paid and their children resume classes normally.
Pressure on the state’s authorities by the parents of the deprived children is likely to force the political elites to free the captured resources for public benefit. God bless the teachers in Jubek State for opening our eyes! God bless the children deprived of their constitutional right to general education!