25 Nov 2020

 

Tribute To Prof Aggrey Ayuen Majok, “The person I know”

"In Prof Aggrey Ayuen Majok, South Sudan has lost one of its best sons: an academician, visionary, hard worker and an achiever."

By Prof Peter Tingwa*

Usually one gets to know colleagues and friends in school. But that was not my case with Aggrey Ayuen. He was far behind me. By the time he came to Loka, Rumbek, even in the University I had long gone.

But I did see a little of him in Shambat, when he was un under graduate in the Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, while I was already a teaching assistant in the Faculty of Agriculture.

In 1970, I left for the doctoral degree in the University of California, Riverside, and when I returned in 1974, to teach in the Faulty of Agriculture in Shambat, he had already graduated in 1971 and had gone to work in the Southern Region

A good lecturer:

I was to start to know him better in November 1980, when I became the second Dean of the College of Natural Resources and Environmental Studies (CNRES). I came and found that he had been engaged as a Part Time Lecturer in the College, and was teaching Anatomy and Animal Health subjects to the Animal Science students.

His special area was Animal Health. As many might know, Animal Health is the sine qua non livestock production. That is, one has to control the diseases before proceeding with the other aspects of livestock production.

So, before long, I found out that Aggrey was the best part time lecturer in the College. He would not only cover the syllabus in time, but would not miss his classes; and if he did miss it because of engagements in the Ministry, he would make up for it at his own time.

Aggrey would come and arrange his practical classes, unlike many others who depended on the teaching assistants to do it; and when the College did not have them, he would use the facilities of the Ministry for teaching the students.

Furthermore, Aggrey would submit his examinations results in time, unlike many other part timers in the University after whom one has to run in order to obtain the marks.

That Aggrey was doing a good job in CNRES was evident to me when we sent our Animal Science students to Shambat in order to take the same subjects with the Animal Production students of the Faculty of Agriculture.

On a visit to Shambat, one of my colleagues, who was teaching one of the subjects to our students together with their students, told me that your students have a very good grasp of Animal Anatomy, Physiology and Health; all of which were subjects that were being taught by Aggrey in CNRES. I felt very proud about it.

Aborted plans:
As now only a few of you may be aware, the initial programming of studies for the University of Juba, as drawn up by academicians from the European Union (which was `going to fund the University) was a three-year diploma program and which to be followed by the degree program. For the CNRES, the diplomas were to be awarded in the areas of Animal Science, Crop Science, Fishery Studies, Forestry, Geology and Veterinary Technology. The College began with the first four, because they were easier to implement, resource and staff-wise.

In due course, however, the Geology specialization was started when Dr. Peter Adwok returned from his studies. And so, by 1983, only the Veterinary Technology specialization remained unimplemented. It thus was my concern to establish it as quickly as possible

The opportunity arose when the Regional Government opened the World Bank supported May Laboratory at Rotun in Juba. With Vice Chancellor Prof Abdel Aal and Dr. Ramachandran, Head of the Laboratory, in full support, I planned to use Aggrey in the Ministry as well as the staff of the Laboratory to start the Veterinary Technology Specialization, while the University was still to establish its own laboratories in the Bilinyang Campus.

That May Laboratory was to be a diagnostic laboratory for the Southern Region with the competence to produce vaccines. But alas that was not to be. The politics of re-division (kokora) upset that plan. So, with the dissolution of the Southern Regional Government Aggrey was now to go to Malakal in Upper Nile, together with Elijah Mawut, who also was teaching critical subjects (Forestry Planning and other courses) in Forestry.

Since their departure was going to seriously affect the teaching of Animal Science and Forestry in the College, I made this known to VC Abdel Aal and, since they already were teaching in the University, he immediately approved their appointment as lectures in the University, on behalf of the Appointments Committee. Hence Aggrey and Elijah joined the University.

At this juncture, with the re-division effected, the World Bank through its arm, the Project Development Unit (PDU) made it clear that it would cease to fund the Laboratory in view of the break-up of the Southern Regional Government.

In view of this, Prof Abdel Aal and myself thought the University could step in to fund the Laboratory so that we could pursue the establishment of the Veterinary Technology specialization. But the offer from the University was declined by the Equatoria Regional Government, which now was responsible for the Laboratory. So the idea of establishing the Veterinary Technology specialization in which Aggrey was expected to play a central role died.

Soon afterwards, Aggrey went to the University of California for a doctoral degree on a College Ford Foundation Grant. In 1993, I also left the University for UN work in Somalia

After the Naivasha Peace Agreement: .
After the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Naivasha, I next met Aggrey in Juba, after my return in 2006 from the UN Mission in Liberia. We used to meet in the Unity Garden to reminisce on the good old days and on how by then, the University of Juba would have had a College of Veterinary Sciences, based on that Veterinary Technology program.

Then in 20xx, I heard that, a Presidential decree had appointed him as the Vice Chancellor of the John Garang University. I called and congratulated him and expressed my confidence that, given his capacity, he would do a good job in building up that University.

Aggrey in John Garang University:
My next chance to meet him was in 2009, when the then Minister for Higher Education Science and Technology, Prof Peter Adwok requested Profs. Charles Bakhiet, Joseph Jervase and myself to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the five universities of Juba, Wau, Rumbek, Bor and Malakal; focusing on academics, academic staff qualifications, staffing, teaching and research.

After our visits to all the universities, we found that Aggrey had the best development plan for his University in both the academic and physical aspects. He had achieved that through extensive networking, where he had: succeeded to secure the support of the University of Texas for establishing a teaching farm; had begun to construct a fish farm and research in Padak; had established a good working relationship with the State Government, such that State Government was extending substantial support to the University in the supplying of fuel when the University supplies ran out; availed a guest house for the University staff; extended assistance in transporting the students to Juba in order to do practical work; and the University had begun extra-mural study programs in English language and other subjects for the public servants as well as the ordinary citizens. But before he could realize his plans, he was transferred to Rumbek University of Science and Technology.

Aggrey in Rumbek University:
When we visited Rumbek in 2009, one of the serious problems in that University was the lack of classroom space. The University was confined to two or so blocks, loaned from the Ministry of Education, and for that reason, it was unable to take in new students. So for two or three academic years the University had remained with only two intakes.

In 2015, while on a different mission to Rumbek, I met Aggrey in the University and in comparison to what we saw during our assessment mission in 2009, things had greatly changed. Again through his network, he had succeeded to acquire an unused government building and renovated it to house the administration, thus freeing one block as lecture halls for the students and, consequently, space for accepting new students.

He told me that, only upon arrival, he discovered that the Act of the University charges it to be a University of Science and Technology and that its aspect of Science and Technology had not been attended to nor put into some development plan. And that it was now going to be his prime task to realize it.

In order to achieve that he told me of his plans to acquire some idle women’s center at Aluakluak and to remodel it to accommodate two colleges: College of Agriculture and Animal Production; and a College of Veterinary Sciences. And that he was going to rely on me and some of his old colleagues to help him to realize it. I gave him my full support.

Sometime later, in one of our communications, he informed me that he had succeeded to get the consent of all concerned, including the locals, for the use of the women center and that he and his staff had drawn up a draft of the administrative structure for what he now called the Alualuak Campus, together with curricula for the two Colleges. And that as the regulations require, he was going to submit the draft to the Undersecretary of Higher Education Ministry, who also is Secretary to the Council for Higher Education (CHE) to go through the process of scrutiny by the CHE’s Specialized Committee on Agriculture, Veterinary and Natural Resources (SCAVNR).

He told me that, as the Chair of the SCAVNR, he was going to send me an advance copy in order to give me a head start before the official copy was forwarded to me.

In the SCANVR, several scholars reviewed the draft curricula and improved on them. Thereafter, as required by the regulation, I submitted the revised curricula to the Secretary of the CHE for onward passage to the Chairman of the CHE, the Minister of Higher Education for further action.

The rules require that he should present the recommended draft to the CHE for approval. But in the absence of CHE, the Minister could have approved the submission on behalf of the CHE and report it to the Council in its next meeting.

But several months later, I got a phone call from a very frustrated and disappointed Aggrey. He told me that the submission is somewhere between the offices of the Secretary and the Minister and that his effort to push it through had failed. He told me that it would appear that none of them is concerned about effecting it. I too was disappointed after all the efforts we had put in reviewing the draft.

Unfinished dream: 
In early 2019, I got another call from Aggrey. He told me that he had been replaced as the VC of the University of Rumbek and that he was returning to teach in the University of Juba.

I was very much surprised as to how Aggrey could be removed from the leadership of a university, because to me, if there was anybody who was devoted and anxious to build a university for South Sudan it was Aggrey.

I know that in universities (academia) you can serve in different positions and capacities as registrar, dean, VC, et cetera, but in the end, you sort of retire back to your teaching profession in your department.

Usually when that happens, you are honored in the department with a Chair. I knew that his return to University of Juba would be of much benefit to the Animal Production department.

But I still feel that in our case, where we have few people with Aggrey’s caliber and ability, he should have been allowed to realize his plan of establishing the Aluakluak Campus of the University of Rumbek. This is particularly true in view of the fact that he too was transferred before realizing his dream for the John Garang University.

In his work, Aggrey’s disappointment was always the lack of money for implementing his plans. But when he could, he would knock on every door and, on some occasions, he would succeed to get what he wanted. In this disappointment, he often would remark to me as to why those in authority in our country fail to see the noble work the universities were doing. Nonetheless and despite this, he never gave up.

Conclusion:
In Prof Aggrey Ayuen Majok, South Sudan has lost one of its best sons: an academician, visionary, hard worker and an achiever. Like late Prof Akolda Man Tier, Aggrey was a strong believer in high academic values, standards, quality and strict adherence to the rules, regulations and statutes that govern actions and decisions in the universities as well as in higher education. As of today, these qualities seem to be rare and therefore are sorely needed in our battered universities.

On the personal level, for those of us who knew and worked with him, we will miss him and his companionship. A good devoted son of South Sudan,

May the Almighty rest his soul in eternal peace.

*The writer is a former Dean of the College of Natural Resources and Environments Studies of the University of Juba. He can be reached at ptingwa@yahoo.com
 

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