Students at the University of Juba have condemned an order by the administration suspending lectures for all the undergraduate students until 23rd November 2020.

On Monday, the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Prof. John Akec, issued a notice informing all the students that the institution will be closed for undergraduate lectures until November 23, saying it will help give students time to clear their tuition fees. 

“We will close the university on 27th October 2020. What we are demanding is less than 50 US dollars per semester. Some students are committed, but some think they will study for free because this is a government institution,” Prof. Akec said.

This came after the students staged a peaceful protest against access restrictions to the university premises.

Last week, Vice-Chancellor Professor John Akec issued a circular saying all the students with tuition fees arrears will not be allowed to access the university.

The students argued that the economic crisis has made some of them unable to clear the tuition fees.

Professor John Akech later issued a statement saying the university will be closed for a week to ensure all students clear tuition fees.

“Lectures are suspended and the university will be closed to all students except postgraduate programs for this week. We will open for students who have not registered to clear their fees from Monday 2nd November to Saturday 21st November 2020, then we will resume the next Monday (23rd November) and everybody will show a temporary ID card. Any student who will not have registered by Saturday 21st November 2020 will be deregistered. They will not be allowed to attend lectures or sit for exams. Postgraduate studies are not affected by this order,” Professor Akech’s circular read in part.

A student leader, James Duar, said the students protested over the circular that was imposed on the students by the Vice-Chancellor.

“What happened in the university was a circular brought out by the VC saying on Monday which is 26th of October, he will close all gates of the campus to those who have not paid. He came to the gate and did it but students forced themselves into the campus. Today, again he came up with another circular saying the university will be closed for one month,” Duar said.

Speaking to Radio Tamazuj, several students protested the suspension, saying the university decided to silence them after a peaceful over a hike in tuition fees on Monday.

Chan Riang, a student at the college of natural resources said, “Protest is our rights in the university constitution. We called for our rights and it was clear. We demanded that the students’ ID fees be separated from the tuition fee. Students should not be prevented from getting into the campus. These demands should have not led to university closure.”

“This year, they tripled the fees. For our college, it has been increased from 16,000 last year to 45,950 SSP now. The issue is not about giving us time to pay because if we are to even pay we will have to clear arrears for the past year,” Riang added.

Another student, Joseph Alex, urged the government to intervene by reopening the university, saying they will not be able to meet the new fee structure due to the current economic meltdown in the country. 

“You cannot ask a student to pay 50,000 SSP from 5,000 SSP. This is a government institution. It should not be so,” he said.  

Earlier this year, students protested when the University management decided to review the tuition fees policy.

The University of Juba is one of the five public universities in South Sudan. It was founded in 1975 to carter for higher education in southern areas of the then Sudan.