The South Sudanese government has appealed to Botswana for 100 scholarships in different disciplines as the war-consumed nation is facing economic hardships frustrating education delivery.
The East African country’s minister of higher education, science and technology, Yien Oral Lam Tut made the plea yesterday in a courtesy call on his counterpart, Alfred Madigele in Gaborone.
Tut asked for the scholarships to span a period of five years covering undergraduate studies as well as vocational courses. Despite the challenges back at home, he said endless opportunities exist since his country has vast agricultural land, fisheries and mining prospects which, once the conflict halts, demand skilled personnel to translate into economic benefits.
“I am moving around looking for opportunities for our students in the form of scholarships. Government is unable to offer adequate and stable education due to economic challenges. “None of us is able to afford education, even us Ministers cannot afford to educate our children,” he declared.
The mission has thus far taken him to a couple of countries including Egypt and Ethiopia among others.
He added there is a challenge of capacity amidst the war crisis as one of the five public Universities, the University of Juba was turned into a military base. Other dire situations faced include lack of a conducive environment for medical students to do practical work, hence Tut pleaded with Botswana to offer at least one-year internship to these students. Botswana has in the past offered 19 scholarships to South Sudanese students in the fields of agriculture and health. The students were subsequently offered internship opportunities.
“We appreciate the internship offered to our students upon completion and we request that more opportunities
However, there are issues of concern regarding those already on scholarships here.
“Though issued with health cards and students can easily access health facilities during school days through the institution in which they are staying, but over the holiday it has become a challenge. They also have difficulties in terms of supplementary exams fees in case of students who fail because of sickness,” he said.
Moreover, Tut demanded the two countries sign a memorandum of understanding detailing terms of the scholarships.
In response, Madigele agreed to the importance of clarifying the terms of the scholarships and hastened to say that would require Cabinet approval.
“We will be constantly in touch with the view to signing it, but it won’t be soon since our systems are slow, but we will ultimately sign it,” he assured.
The requested 100 scholarship positions also need Cabinet as the monetary component is involved, said Madigele.
“Payment for supplementary exams and health care while students are on vacation are straightforward issues because while at school they still don’t have means to pay for themselves. We will consider that,” Madigele said.
He proposed an exchange programme under which skilled locals would work in South Sudan to help rebuild the economy considering rife unemployment in Botswana. “We have qualified teachers, engineers and many professionals on the streets so the exchange programme can help to improve our bilateral relations as well as improve our economies,” he said.