Hon. Awut Deng Acuil: Mother of transformed education system in South Sudan

Hon. Awut Deng Acuil: Mother of transformed education system in South Sudan
Awut Deng Achuil, the South Sudan Minister for Foreign and the first female to hold the position, speaks to press in Juba, South Sudan, Thursday, Sept.12, 2019. Sudan’s newly appointed government and rebel leaders agreed Wednesday on a roadmap aimed at ending war in the country by year end, following the military’s ouster of autocratic President Omar al-Bashir in April. The two sides signed an initial deal after three days of negotiations in Juba, capital of neighboring South Sudan. (AP Photo/Charles Atiki Lomodong)

South Sudan, a young nation striving to build a prosperous future, has faced various challenges in its journey towards sustainable development.

One of the most pressing issues has been the state of its education system. However, under the leadership of Hon. Awut Deng Acuil, the Minister of General Education and Instruction, significant strides have been made to transform the academic path for the South Sudanese generation.

This article will explore how cheating in exams can harm academic credibility and the significance efforts Hon. Acuil deployed in reshaping the country’s education landscape, particularly in combating cheating during exams, which threatens to tarnish the nation’s image and undermine the integrity of the qualifications for secondary education.

Cheating in the exams has long been a detrimental practice in South Sudan. The actions of Senior Four candidates cheating in exams not only cast a negative light on the country but also posed a serious threat to the education system.

It eroded trust in the certification process and devalued the hard work of honest students. Recognizing the urgency of addressing this issue, Minister Awut Deng Acuil has implemented a series of measures to tackle this challenge head-on.

Overall, Hon. Awut Deng Acuil’s measures to prevent cheating in exams among senior four candidates during the national exams demonstrate her commitment to maintaining the credibility and fairness of the education system in South Sudan. Through the enforcement of existing laws, collaborative efforts with key stakeholders, and the motivation of teachers, she aims to create an environment that promotes academic integrity.

The Minister of Education, Hon. Awut , has recently implemented a series of measures aimed at preventing cheating among senior four candidates during the national exams. She has been nicknamed by the South Sudanese students “Awut Agutmachot” in Dinka dialect, “someone who killed a bull with no horn.” Hon. Awut is committed to ensuring the integrity of the education system in South Sudan. Here are the measures she has put in place

 Examinations Council Act and bylaws

Hon. Awut has prioritized the strict enforcement of the National Examinations Council Act and Bylaws. This includes enhancing security measures during the examination process, such as thorough checking of students before entering the examination halls, prohibiting the use of electronic devices, and ensuring the confidentiality of exam papers.

To effectively combat cheating, Hon. Awut has sought the support of the president and the services delivery cluster. This collaboration demonstrates a unified commitment to tackling the issue at a national level. By involving key stakeholders, including government officials and education leaders, the minister aims to create a cohesive effort in addressing the problem of cheating.

Hon. Awut recognises the crucial role teachers play in preventing cheating and maintaining academic honesty. As part of her measures, she has initiated programs to motivate and empower teachers. By providing them with professional development opportunities, recognition for their efforts, and incentives, the minister aims to ensure that teachers are motivated to uphold the integrity of the examination process.

Enhancing examination security

Minister Acuil has prioritized the development of robust examination security measures. This includes the introduction of stricter protocols during exam periods, such as the implementation of thorough identity verification processes, the use of invigilators from external department, and the installation of surveillance security in examination centers. These measures aim to deter and detect cheating, ensuring the validity and credibility of exam results.

 Promoting and ethical conduct

Minister Acuil understands that instilling a culture of integrity is crucial to eradicating cheating the exam (Machot). To address this, she has launched awareness campaigns across schools, emphasizing the importance of ethical behaviour, honesty, and the long-term consequences of cheating in the exam. Additionally, she has implemented stricter penalties for those found guilty of exam malpractice, sending a strong message that such behavior will not be tolerated.

Cheating in the exam has been nick-named by the students as Machot and it has threatened to become a pervasive issue within South Sudan’s academic system. This unethical practice not only undermines the integrity of the education system but also brings shame to the country. However, amidst this predicament, the Honorable Minister for Education has embarked on a mission to bring about positive change, with the Game of Machot this year, Hon. Awut scored 39 points and students with zero. This article explores how cheating (Machot) has harmed the academic system in South Sudan and highlights the optimism of the new generation for a brighter future.

Dilution of academic integrity

Cheating (Machot) compromises the fundamental principles of academic integrity. It devalues the hard work and efforts of students who genuinely strive to succeed. Moreover, it erodes the trust between students, teachers, and the education system as a whole. The prevalence of cheating tarnishes the reputation of South Sudan’s academic institutions, making it difficult for the country to gain recognition and respect on the international stage.

 Low quality education

When students resort to cheating, they forgo the opportunity to learn and develop essential skills. The focus shifts from acquiring knowledge to finding shortcuts to pass exams. As a result, the overall quality of education suffers, as students are ill-prepared for higher education or the workforce. This perpetuates a cycle of mediocrity, hindering the progress and development of the country.

 Negative impact on society

Cheating not only affects the individuals involved but also has far-reaching consequences for society. Graduates who have passed exams through (Machot) lack the necessary skills and knowledge to contribute effectively to the development of their communities. This hampers progress in various sectors, including healthcare, engineering, and agriculture, hindering the overall growth and prosperity of the nation.

 Loss of national pride

The international community erodes the sense of national pride among its citizens. Cheating, whether in academic settings, business transactions, or political processes, undermines the basic values of honesty, fairness, and integrity that are integral to a nation’s identity.

When cheating in exams becomes almost pervasive, it creates a culture of dishonesty and mistrust. Citizens start losing faith in their institutions, leaders, and even in each other. This loss of trust weakens the social fabric and hinders progress and development. It becomes increasingly challenging for South Sudan to attract foreign investment, foster economic growth, and establish itself as a reliable and respectable member of the global community.

Furthermore, the loss of national pride resulting from the prevalence of cheating is detrimental to the collective psyche of the nation. A strong sense of national pride contributes to a cohesive and resilient society, instilling a shared identity and purpose among its citizens. It fuels a commitment to work together towards common goals and overcome challenges.

Implementing robust systems and mechanisms to prevent and punish cheating in various domains such as education, business, and politics. This may include enacting and enforcing strict regulations, instituting transparency measures, and creating a culture of accountability.

Education and awareness

 Investing in educational programs that emphasize the importance of integrity, ethics, and moral values. Incorporating lessons on the damaging effects of cheating at an early stage will help shape the mindset of future generations, fostering a culture of honesty and ethical behavior.

Promoting a sense of ownership and responsibility among citizens towards their country. Engaging them in community-building activities, volunteer work, and civic organizations will help restore a sense of pride and belonging.

By addressing the issue of cheating head-on, South Sudan can begin to rebuild its reputation and regain the national pride that has been eroded. It is a collective effort that requires the cooperation of citizens, institutions, and leadership to establish a society built on trust, integrity, and a shared sense of pride in the nation.

Who is Hon. Acuil?

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Minister of General Education and Instruction Awut Deng Acuil with Secretary-General and Members of the Council at Crown Hotel (photo credit: Mamer Abraham/The City Review)

Hon. Awut Deng Acuil is a highly respected South Sudanese politician who has made significant contributions to her nation over the past 39 years. Born in 1962, Awut has served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation from August 2019 to March 2020, before being appointed as the Minister for General Education and Instruction.

Awut Deng Acuil received her education in East Africa and graduated with a first-class degree in Political Science from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa.

As a leader of peace efforts, Deng participated in the New Sudan Council of Churches Peace initiative and played a key role in the 1999 Wunlit Peace Conference between the Nuer and Dinka communities. She traveled the world advocating for peace in South Sudan and was recognized with the 2002 Interaction Humanitarian Award.

Deng also participated in the peace talks in Kenya from 2002 to 2004, which led to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005. She held various positions of responsibility, including being a member of the South Sudan Legislative Assembly, a presidential advisor on gender and human rights, and the co-founder of several organizations promoting women’s rights and peace.

In her political career, Deng served as South Sudan’s Minister of Labuor and Public Service from 2009 to 2011, and later as Minister of Gender, Child, and Social Welfare. She has been a Member of Parliament since 2010 and is currently serving as the Minister of General Education and Instructions in the Revitalized Unity Government after the signing of the 2018 Peace accord.

Hon. Awut Deng Acuil has been instrumental in advancing the representation of women in government, advocating for the 35 per cent Women Affirmative Action policy. She is a senior member of the SPLM Political Bureau and has also worked with the Global Partnership for Education.

Her tireless efforts, sacrifices, and contributions have earned her a great honor and respect in her nation.

Hon. Awut Deng Acuil, the Minister of General Education and Instructions in South Sudan. She is a fearless mother and senior woman intellectual in the country. Hon. Awut is known for her optimism and resilience in good governance, and she is also a leader of peace efforts in South Sudan. She has been involved in government since the CPA of 2005 and has served in various ministries, including Foreign Affairs. Hon. Awut is a member of the SPLM Political Bureau and the National Liberation Council.

In the same note, I would also want to extend my heartfelt appreciation to H.E Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of the Republic of South Sudan for your exceptional cooperation with the Minister of Education, Honorable Awut Deng Acuil. Without your unwavering support and guidance, the remarkable achievements in the education sector would not have been possible.

Free Compulsory Education for all: Firstly, I would like to acknowledge your dedication and commitment to the development of South Sudan, particularly in the field of education. Your leadership has played a vital role in ensuring that quality education is accessible to all citizens, which is instrumental in empowering the youth and shaping a brighter future for our nation. Your vision to prioritize education as a fundamental right for every South Sudanese citizen is truly commendable.

I would also like to appreciate the efforts made by Sudan National Police Service (SSNPS) and South Sudan National Security Service (NSS) for ensuring the security and smooth conduct of examinations.

Parents and guardians for their continuous support and encouragement to their children during the examination period

 ⁠Community leaders and elders for their involvement in promoting education and creating a conducive environment for learning.

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and humanitarian agencies for their efforts in providing educational resources and support to schools and students.

Media organizations for their role in raising awareness about the importance of education and examinations, as well as disseminating information regarding examination schedules and results ⁠International partners and donor agencies for their financial and technical assistance in improving the education sector in South Sudan.

Teachers and school administrators for their dedication and commitment in preparing students for examinations, as well as ensuring the smooth running of examination processes.

These groups and individuals play a crucial role in the education system of South Sudan and deserve appreciation for their contributions.

Above all, I would like to acknowledge and appreciate the caliber of professionalism and commitment bestowed by National Examinations Council’s Secretariat in delivering quality, credible and fair assessment and certification in the Republic of South Sudan. This team of experts under the auspices of Hon. Awut works 24/7 throughout the year to ensure timely examinations, especially this year where examinations are conducted within the academic calendar.

I am writing to convey the overwhelming sentiment of pride and appreciation that the South Sudanese people, parents, and the entire nation have for your remarkable contributions to our beloved country.

Your commitment to building a sustainable and prosperous South Sudan is genuinely awe-inspiring. The unwavering dedication and determination you have demonstrated in your role have not gone unnoticed by the South Sudanese population. The system you have put in place clearly reflects your comprehensive understanding of what it truly means to foster an independent state.

I am delighted to inform you that, having collected reactions from various sources such as social media platforms and social gathering places, an overwhelming majority, close to 90% of the population, expresses their satisfaction and admiration for the work you are doing. This outpouring of support is not limited to specific groups, but it encompasses our entire nation, including tea-makers who also enthusiastically embrace your noteworthy accomplishments.

Your exemplary leadership, which encompasses both vision and action, has instilled a renewed sense of hope and optimism among the South Sudanese people. The impact is evident, as conversations regarding your efforts can be found in everyday interactions at tea installs and other communal settings. Your dedication to service and progress resonates with the people of South Sudan, and it is crucial for you to be aware of their profound appreciation. Your efforts serve as a beacon of hope for a brighter future for our nation, and you have successfully cultivated a sense of pride within us.

We stand united in our support for your endeavors, and we are confident that your continued service will bring about transformative changes in our society. Your commitment and understanding of the needs and aspirations of our people are truly commendable. May Almighty God bless south Sudan.

The veracity of any claims made are the responsibility of the author.

John Abit Mayen Manyang, is a South Sudanese Professional and an Independent Writer.

A graduate from South Sudan prestigious University of Juba with MSc in Security Studies, Distinctive Master of Art in Public Administration, Postgraduate Diploma in Public Administration, Bachelor Degree in Public Administration and Diploma in Public Administration.

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