Kindly Repatriate Your Children, Mr. Honorable

By Holy Crook

March 17, 2013 (SSNA) — Unless every constitutional post holder repatriates his or family into South Sudan, efforts to build the new state will always go to waste.

To serve one’s country equals serving one’s immediate family. In essence, a leader is two fathers in one. He has two families that he looks after, cater for. One family is comprised of wife and children. The other comprises of you and me and his immediate family as well. A good leader serves his nation the very way he serves his immediate family. Such a leader is called man of the people.

But as the saying goes: no one can serve two masters, it is really hard, almost impossible, for a leader, particularly a South Sudanese, to serve his nation efficiently, especially when his wife and children are residing in a foreign land.

Immediate family, mainly children, play a major role in the governing of a nation. Children influence decisions a leader makes on national issues. That’s why it is rare to find a childless democratic leader today. If there are any, you will always learn that they have adopted children, honorary sons and daughters.

For South Sudan, it’s different. The fact that children of senior government officials are still residents of foreign cities has serious implications on the way the affairs of the country are being run. It’s simple:

As a cabinet minister whose children go to a private school in Nairobi or Kampala, you will always pay little or no attention at all, to challenges facing primary school children in Chukudum or Nasir.

When your son goes to one of the prestigious colleges in New York or London, whatever problem that faces Juba or Wau university students, whatever plight of a poor student you hear ‘gets into your head through one ear and flies out through the other,’ immediately.

When young children and the elderly die at Juba Teaching Hospital due to lack of medical supplies, when mothers die during delivery at Malakal civil Hospital because there is no one to attend to them for nurses have downed their tools over salary arrears, you cease to listen because none of your family members is affected in any way.

When majority of Juba residents, after eight years, ‘smell’ electricity, when the citizens are losing hearing to the deafening sound of Chinese generators, you find it too much work to devise solutions simply because neither you nor your child knows what it feels like to dwell in a town without power.

When good citizens perish in road carnages due to bad roads, when a rescue team takes three days to get to a village 10 kilometers far off, to fight off raiders because of non-existence of road networks, you knock back three tots of your favorite European whiskey and say “who cares?” because none of your children uses those roads.

When almost every home in Juba does not have access to running water, when women still walk distance to fetch water, none of those conditions inspires you to find possible solutions to the prolonged suffering because your family is enjoying sweat of other men who toiled, men who had to build landmarks to make sure their offspring have something to brag about.

Do you see how your children are impacting on the national issues, directly?

Yes every parent wants all the best things there are on earth for his or her children. Every father wants his children to acquire better education. But now that all these are impacting on the nation negatively, won’t you move your family back to the country?

It sounds wild but the moment you use economic lens to look at what you are doing, you will get to realize how destructive this is to the country. Try this: If school fees of your child is Ksh. 100,000 per term, don’t you figure what it means to the young economy of South Sudan?

If your fellow civil servant sends tens of thousands of dollars to Australia or America as monthly family upkeeps, don’t you see how bad it is to the economy?

If a constitutional post holder, someone charged with the responsibility of building the nation, could buy a 20-million-shilling mansions in Nairobi, how many other comrades of his have bought such houses? Exactly what plans do you have for this country and its citizens?

Alleviation of this baby country from chronic economic, political and social pains is easy. It does not and it will not require rocket science to better the Republic of South Sudan. All it demands is heart, patriotism.

Since school is one of the pieces of cloth you always use to cover ‘political nakedness’, since education for your children is the reason why they are still in refuge, improvement and transformation of the education sector must be prioritized in the country. Below are possible solutions. But first, let’s look at how bad the education sector is.

A UNESCO recent report highlights factors behind low enrollment and early drop out across the country. The two factors most widely reported by parents, explaining why their children are out of school are cost and distance.

While the government has a policy of free basic education, many schools appear to charge fees. Moreover, parents face indirect costs associated with the purchase of uniforms and books. Distance is especially problematic in states – such as Western Bar Ghazal, Western Equatoria and Jonglei – with low population densities.

In the case of South Sudan, infrastructure deficits and shortages of learning materials reinforce deficits in the quality of education, as illustrated by the following data:

Pupil-teacher ratios are very high, especially for trained teachers. The national average ratio for pupils-trained teachers is 1:117, rising to 1:141 in Unity and Upper Nile states and 1:201 in Jonglei.

Classroom shortages are pervasive. One third of the children ‘in school’ are being taught in the open air and another quarter in semi-permanent or basic classrooms. The average pupil classroom ratio is 134:1

Provision of latrines and safe drinking water is limited, with just half of schools having access to both facilities. Most school children ease themselves in the nearby bushes.

Textbooks are in short supply, with an average pupil textbook ratio of 1:4 rising to the worst case scenario of 1:9 in Unity state.

The above problems echo the government’s perception of the education sector. They show that the government devalues the badly needed education.

Look, in spite of the pathetic conditions of the educational system in South Sudan, the children of the “Most High,” starting from children of H.E President Kiir and Vice President Riek, must be repatriated into the country because it is only their presence, their feeling and sharing in the pain of this deplorable situation that will compel their good dads to find solutions to the predicament.

A problem well defined is a problem half-solved. Need I get into the details of more possible solutions? No, Sir.

The Author is a South Sudanese based in Juba. He can be reached via: [email protected]

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