Welcome to Juba University. There have been no classes here since November, but the campus is alive with events and activities, and student dorms are completely full. I couldn’t get an exact answer about why the academic term never began. It has something to do with the university being in legal limbo after independence: the current charter is with the Government of Sudan, and to resume classes the university has to be re-chartered by the new Government of South Sudan. But I guess that can’t officially happen until after July 9. Soon enough, though, Juba University will become one of five active national universities for South Sudan (and the only one in Juba).
Until then students are passing the time leisurely on campus, reading, studying, playing soccer and basketball, and planning independence activities and celebrations.
Juba University was built in 1972, just after the peace agreement was signed ending the first civil war. But when fighting erupted again in 1983, the campus here shut down and the university relocated to Khartoum. After the CPA was signed in 2005 the Juba campus began a slow revival process. Over the past few years, many students studying at Juba University in Khartoum have moved back here and enrollment has been steadily increasing.
I met JU students on two different occasions, and both times I was incredibly impressed with the commitment to education expressed by nearly everyone I spoke to. One student explained that after having consistent education denied to them for so long during the war they really value the opportunity to be here and anxiously await the day classes will begin again. You don’t necessarily hear that from every college student you talk to in the US.
Students here also have bright ideas about the future of their country and progressive expectations of their government. Short term political realities, though, might interfere with their hopes for true democracy, an end to all corruption, and equal distribution of state resources geographically. But like anywhere, these students are the next generation of leaders and their ideas and beliefs are important in the long run.
Maybe it’s natural that I found the university to be the most comfortable place I visited this week. After all, I spent most of the last three years on a campus, and the general atmosphere here is much like my own school. Talking to students was a real pleasure, and I certainly plan on spending more time doing just that.