Make education compulsory in South Sudan

By Telar Deng*

“If you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much ignorance costs in the 21st century.” -Barrack Obama.

We all know why education is good for individuals like me and you. In a competitive world, you stand a better chance of earning more, leading a better life and you can also take good care of your health and your family. You are prone to make better decisions that will affect you and your family positively. What we never really talk about as much is education in leadership and politics.

I am of the opinion that education must be compulsory when it comes to leadership and politics. It is fundamental for at least a leader to be educated, because this makes it easier for him/her to be able to manage the country and make informed decisions. It’s been proven that leaders who have an education, have a vision while leaders without an education do not have a vision whatsoever. In this article, I will highlight on educated leaders and their strengths and also on uneducated leaders and their ignorance.

As it’s been stated time without number, once you fix the politics, you fix a peoples livelihood. Electing a leadership that is able to decipher and be sensitive to its citizen’s plight goes a long way into fixing the politics. Leaders play an important role by affecting policy and economic outcomes and more intrinsically, present evidence shows that leaders’ quality, measured by their educational level and personal background, matters for economic growth and reforms in a country. The need to have more educated leaders stems from the fact that highly educated leaders are also better citizens and are more likely to act in the benefit of public interest. It is no wonder that bad leadership in many of the countries globally could be traced to poor educational background of their various leaders. This is because education and intelligence are indispensable components of good leadership. Plato, one of the ancient philosophers, has argued that a learned leader stands a better chance of doing well more than his uneducated counterpart.

As a leader of any country, one has to grapple with a myriad of issues. You are entrusted with running the affairs of the country and helping the citizenry lead a better life. Considering the various challenges and issues a leader of a nation has to deal with, a college education becomes extremely essential in order for one to be of better judgment. Yes you may not know everything since one can only be a master of a few disciplines, having a college education expands one’s scope of thinking. Your ability to dissect different issues is enhanced and you’re even better placed to pick the very best advisors to help in areas you may not have the requisite education. And this doesn’t mean I look down on people without an education, we have very many global leaders who did not get a college education but still managed to give the best leadership they could give. Sir John Major, the prime minister of Britain from the year 1990-1997 only completed his O-level and did not go to college and he gave the best leadership to his ability. This does not only apply to leadership but it also applies to entrepreneurship, Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple dropped out of college after one semester and he is arguably one of the worlds valued and admired business tech and innovators.

Throughout the history of the nations, we have had various types of leaders and some of them have had a humble educational background. This does not mean that all leaders with a humble educational backgrounds have been catastrophic while those with an education the very best. There are always exceptions to the rule, however, some of the worst leaders we have seen yet have had minimal education. This is best exemplified by the brutal regime of Idi Amin, the former President of Uganda and others globally.

It is always better to wage your bet on an educated leader since you are guaranteed he would have an understanding of his job and an appreciation of what is to be expected of him as compared to an uneducated leader who will mostly depend on his instincts or advisors who are often court jesters.

In the year 2004, Dr. John Garang while on a visit to Arizona, Phoenix as he was addressing the young men and women of South Sudan, said ‘I have come to wake you up and remind you that your day has come, tomorrow is already here and so take over leadership of your movement, take over leadership of the SPLM/A; you have very little time left to prepare yourselves to take over that leadership in whatever fields; in agriculture, carpentry, architecture, medicine, politics, economics, even in a raising a family… all these require leadership and all contribute to building the New Sudan for which we have fought and sacrificed for over the last twenty-four years.’

My understanding of this quote is that we as the older generation fought in the bush and it is time for the young leaders to come in with their various expertise from the different fields to help improve our country. It is therefore imperative for the young leaders now to take their education seriously because only then would we realize the country we have all been yearning for. I imagine a South Sudan where all the young South Sudanese who are in the diaspora coming back home to work home, Doctors who will assist with the medical sector, economists who will improve our economy, lawyers who will be able to tirelessly work on giving us a better legal system where justice is served to all regardless of your financial status or your standing in society, architects and engineers who will build on our infrastructure and also role models for the younger South Sudanese boys and girls who are still within South Sudan. All these different experts in their various fields would, therefore, give civic education to the South Sudanese back at home. An informed citizen has better knowledge of their rights and would not let anyone take advantage of them because they know what is owed to them. We will have built on our human resource, which in return will help us develop our natural resources and assist us to get more revenue to our country. This will increase our Gross domestic product (GDP Per capita). If countries like Jordan with no natural resources can have a higher GDP per capita, why not South Sudan that has more natural resources coupled up with human resource.

It is my wish that all South Sudanese in Diaspora, whether in Africa or the West or the East will take up their leadership positions just as Dr John Garang had said. We are already at a disadvantaged position because of the war, therefore our only ticket out is our young leaders who will have a better education than us and leadership qualities because of the exposure they are getting now.

The author is a former minister and diplomat in South Sudan

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