Norway played a central role in the mediation that went on between the warring factions in Sudan before the peace treaty was signed in 2005. Since then, the Norwegian government has committed itself to helping rebuild the country and in 2007 an initiative put forward by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, established a programme for strengthening educational institutions in southern Sudan. The Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences participated in the rebuilding process, together with the University Library. This participation will result in the building of a brand new automated library at Juba University and the development of laboratory-based tuition for natural science subjects.
Juba University was forced to move activities north, to the University of Khartoum, during the civil war. After about 20 years in exile, it’s time to move back.
-There is a controlled reduction of activity in Khartoum and rebuilding in southern Sudan, says Ole Gunnar Evensen, who is leader of the Juba University Library Automation Project.
Evensen visited Sudan in February, and was positively surprised by what he saw in Juba. The University Library had several books that can be used as foundation for the new library, and a new computer lab. He points out however, that there is still a lot to be done.
Big changes are already planned to take place by the autumn - new books will be purchased and the library automation process will continue with help of monetary support from the NUCOOP-programme. Resources will also be placed into training skilled librarians, in collaboration with Makerere University in Uganda and Oslo University College.
The rebuilding is threatened by the fragile peace.
A main requirement for projects that receive funding through the NUCOOP-programme is that they must be sustainable. There is therefore a strong focus on teaching staff and on recruiting personnel who have been educated abroad and persuading them to return to southern Sudan. Prof. Dag. E. Helland, who leads the natural science project, uses experience gained at the University of Bergen in his collaboration with Uganda and thinks that the Sudanese academic milieu, will manage to continue the work on their own, when the project ends. He saw some very positive signs during his trip to Sudan in February.
-I noticed that some big changes had occurred during the five months that had elapsed since my first visit. Infrastructure in particular had improved, says Helland.
The big question is if peace between north and south Sudan can be maintained, according to Helland.
-As just a little part of the work of making sure that the peace agreement is successful, it’s important that the northern and southern universities start to co-operate with each other, he says.