The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Juba has called for dialogue between the public universities and the government to resolve the issue of tuition fees.
Recently, the administration of the university Juba and that of Upper Nile sent out a circular, increasing the fees ranging between 50,000 and 75,000 South Sudanese Pounds.
But, President Salva Kiir, the Chancellor of the universities directed the administration to suspend the fee increment until relevant institutions address the matter exhaustively.
This came after the students at the University of Juba protested the move arguing that the new fees structure is unattainable and therefore amounts to a denial of the right to education.
The Parliamentary Committee on Education at the National Legislature last week summoned the VCs.
Professor John Akech and the four Vice-Chancellors of the public universities today appeared before a parliamentary committee to explain why they adjusted the fee structure in the first place.
The five vice chancellors and the specialized standing committee on education headed up by Honorable Ahmed Mohamed could not agree on anything this morning.
Some members of the committee expressed their dissatisfaction with the process taken by the administration to increase the fees.
One of the MPs said the administration should have first appealed for assistance from the national government before announcing a “unilateral” decision.
“You have to put on paper what your requirements are,” while adding that the universities should remain open.
“Collect all fees and then tell the government, we will not continue for more than a month if you don’t rescue us, ” the MP who did not introduce his name during the hearing said.
However, Professor Akec said they have already reached a conclusion that the universities cannot operate without additional funds.
“For us at the University of Juba, it is clear that we will never be able to proceed with anything until we get a very clear agreement about how much we will actually be going for,” He said.
Akec suggested that the administration of the universities would prefer discussions on reducing the amount, rather than a total reversal of the decision.
“If you are saying that it is not fair, you really have to come up with something like reducing it by 25%, by 10%, or by 50%. For us would be to continue this dialogue very quickly so that universities can open quickly and can register students.”
Honorable Zachariah, who sat in the committee hearing agrees with Professor Akec’s predicament, saying the financial situation of the public universities in appalling.
“It is one of the two; either you eat or you die. There is nothing in the middle. If there is no money in the university, the only option in front of any Vice-Chancellor is to close it down, because what do you do with fuel, internet, and papers? It is not easy,” he said.
Another MP, Honorable Omai Akolwin said without additional funds from the government, the universities should close down.
“The universities are training teachers who will then teach at schools. Why don’t we tell the government that we need funding of university or else we will close them,” said Hon. Akolwin.
But Professor John Akec called for a meeting with the President and the Ministry of Finance to iron out issues regarding funding higher education in the country, including how the government can meet the deficit in their budget -if they opt for percentage reduction.
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