By Daniel Juol Nhomngek, Law Development Center, Kampala, SEPT/26/2015, SSN;
It was a sad day for me when I heard the Press Secretary of the President of the Republic of South Sudan, Mr. Ateny Wek Ateny, stating confidently that it was a waste of time to go for PHD while bachelor degrees could do in South Sudan. To him PHD was no longer necessary in South Sudan.
Such statement was really bad and ill-intended. It was not made as a matter of opinion but it was intended as a clear campaign against PHD Holders who Ateny Wek Ateny thought that holding PHD or doctorate in any field was the cause of South Sudanese problems: forgetting that it is misgovernment that is the source of all troubles vexing South Sudan today.
In making such statement, he was indirectly referring to Dr. Riek Machar whom he thinks to be the cause of all the problems of South Sudan. Therefore, the solution according to Wek was to brainwash all aspiring South Sudanese so that they dropped their desire for going for PHD where they would become another Riek Machar in future.
The above statement was made by Ateny Wek Ateny when he was invited to Kampala (Uganda) to preside over the dissolution of Bhar El Ghazal Youth Association. During that day, it happened by coincidence that the Patron of the Association by the name Bol Muorteer was a PHD student from Kampala International University (KIU).
During the introduction, Patron Bol Muorteer was introduced as the “only PHD student from Bhar El Ghazal studying in Uganda.” In addition, Bol was given to address the community of Bhar El Ghazal that was invited in which he annoyed the guest of honor, Mr. Ateny Wek Ateny.
As he was giving the speech, Bol said a thing that I thought to be the cause of annoyance to Mr. Ateny Wek Ateny. In his speech he stated that the PHD holders or professionals in general can play a positive role in the country for giving expert’s advice and carrying out researches that the government could use in its national policies and plans, which was a very valid point.
However, Ateny Wek Ateny whose experiences have been defined by 2013 Incident in which Riek, one of the South Sudanese PHD Holders was accused of attempting to overthrow the government of Juba did not make out any sense of what Bol was saying since he believed that Riek was a destructive force in South Sudan because of his doctorate. A view and feeling shared by many South Sudanese officials.
Instead of appreciating the struggle of a young man to PHD level, Ateny Wek was worked up by the statement and as soon as he was called to address the community, he could not waste his time.
He started by narrating the event that took place in Juba in 2013 and then related it to PHD holders whom he accused to be the trouble-makers of South Sudan.
After that he started discouraging the students not only from Bhar El Ghazal but also from all over South Sudan, saying that going for PHD is a waste of time and he also further stated that he would never encourage nor support any person to go for PHD.
That statement alone annoyed me. It annoyed me because at that point I saw South Sudan future being sacrificed at the altar of ignorance, selfishness and lack of proper reasoning due to the lack of proper education.
Such a statement was very childlike and self-centred that “educated men like Ateny Wek Ateny would have not entertained.”
Any reasonable person would dismiss such reasoning within a second. In fact, it was an erroneous statement full of misgiving and prejudice.
What Ateny Wek Ateny did not understand with his high level of education in journalism is the fact that journalism teaches objectivity.
Journalism teaches that any occurrence should be treated on its own facts and generalization of things without any conclusive proof should be avoided by all means.
The fact that Riek Machar and few other South Sudanese who are doctors disturb the government should not make the government of South Sudan or her officials to conclude that PHD is the problem of South Sudan.
Ateny would have thought twice before sacrificing future of South Sudan for his primordial interest of eliminating Riek Machar.
As I have stated in the foregoing sentence, Ateny has effectively sacrificed the future of South Sudan in a way that many students who had believed in what he was saying will never dream of going for PHD, which is bad sign for the young nation like South Sudan.
The damage is already done to South Sudan by Ateny Wek Ateny based on the fact that he is closer to the President, which means that he already intoxicated the president with wrong philosophy and unless the president is an objective man, he will never support Sudanese in pursuing their professions, which in future will deprive South Sudan of expertise that is necessary for its development.
I believe, there is no smoke without fire, the falling value of education in South Sudan has its root in reasoning of Ateny and his associates who share the same view. Ateny does not appreciate the role of experts in development of South Sudan.
The roles of experts such as engineers, journalists, lawyers, teachers and many others and above all, PHD Holders and Professors are prerequisites for the development of any nation because a nation that does not have enough experts in all fields is a nation that is doomed from the start.
South Sudan is one of such nations, which lacks enough experts and would have been the interest of the government of South Sudan not only to encourage South Sudanese in all fields to study to the PHD levels but to also set aside budget that will make it possible for those who are interested to go on to the highest levels with their studies.
As a matter of fact, the development of all nations depends on the correct diagnoses of the inherent problems that tend to hinder the development, which only the experts who are proper persons endowed with the ability and skills to make correct research and give proper recommendations or pieces of advice to the government as to what should be done to progress.
The USA, Germany, Australia, Canada and many other developed nations developed because of good education which produces independent experts. Thus, it means that PHD per se is not the problems or source of the problems of South Sudan, but the source of the problem of South Sudan is the type of education received by some of the PHD Holders currently in South Sudan.
Education that was given to South Sudanese by then was not helpful for the building of South Sudan. The type of education given to South Sudanese looked only at the ends not the means of achieving such ends.
Or South Sudanese were educated to fear of telling the truth and worship the authorities no matter how wrong they might be. In other words, there were no rights of citizens but all rights viewed as privileges granted by the state and could be withdrawal at any time by the state.
Hence, education provided in Sudan by then in calculated values of secrecy, biting and destruction of the imagined enemies in politics and to grab power as soon as the opportunity avails itself.
Therefore, education was seen as a power of destroying one’s opponents, accessing political power and amassing wealth at the expense of the poor and vulnerable.
Thus, instead of looking at PHD Holders as the source or problems by the government of South Sudan, the government should critically analyse type of education that children receive and also should adopt good education because individuals like Riek Machar are not trouble makers because of PHD but because of the type of education that was given to them by the Northern Sudan or the government of Sudan by then.
The government of Sudan by then did not intend education to impart good values in the individuals that encouraged objectivity and service to the community but it was based on subjectivity in which the receiver of it looked at things in the angle of gain and positivity at all the times.
It is the same kind of education that Ateny Wek Ateny has received, which made him to reason the way he did today.
That was the reason in my opinion why on that day Ateny Wek Ateny was not ashamed to utter such a statement and the question that has been haunting me since I heard that faulty statement was:
Did the Press Secretary of the President of the Republic of South Sudan, Mr. Ateny Wek Ateny, mean what he was saying or was it a slip of the tongue?
Of course, the way he was saying it, he really meant it and there is no doubt about that.
Then, if Wek meant what he was saying, what is going to be the implication of his statement on the development of South Sudan given the fact that the development of any nation depends on the levels of professions the country has?
As already explained above in paragraphs 10, 11, 12 and 13, South Sudan will not develop unless the political leadership encourages education and specialization and at the same time remove people like Ateny Wek Ateny from influencing the policies of the nation and put the people whose interest of the nation is in the heart.
In summary, what I wanted to say is that Ateny Wek Ateny made a very wrong, prejudicial and erroneous statement that any person who has interest of the nation in the heart would have not made.
What Ateny Wek must know is that it is not PHD or Doctorate that is the problem of South Sudan but the kind of leadership and education such leadership received in the past that have had a lot of negative on South Sudan before and after her independence.
All in all, education matters a lot. If children are, for instance, taught that education is for political power and wealth, then they would grow up using education to grab political power and wealth but if they are taught that education is for services then they would use their education all the times to serve the people.
Thus, Ateny should avoid taking effect for the cause. The problem cause by PHD Holders is not PHD but how such PHD was received. I encourage all South Sudanese who might have given thought to Ateny’s advice to rethink their position and start dreaming of becoming doctors in the future and fight against someone like Ateny Wek Ateny.
It is therefore important for all youth of South Sudan to get united and demand an apology from Ateny Wek Ateny for destroying their future within a minute and campaign for good education system to be introduced in South Sudan.
NB// the Author is a South Sudanese Lawyer admitted to the Bar Course Training, at Law Development Centre in Uganda (LDC) and he can be reached through: firstname.lastname@example.org