Starford International University College (SIUC) has its inception in the unique socio-cultural and economic characteristics of its location in South Sudan. The uniqueness of this region is inherent in the factors that have impacted its past and continue to play a defining role today. These factors are largely the result of significant events that have affected the region in the last two decades. While it is not be possible in the space of this writing to list all such events, it is useful to highlight three such critical events: one, the civil war between the North and the South; the historic moments that resulted in the independence of the country (including the negotiation process, the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, referendum and the declaration of independence); and the attempted coup of 2013, and it’s the adverse consequences. The landscape etched by these events present a platform of exciting opportunities in which SIUC can thrive.
Prior to its independence, the region experienced extreme levels of marginalization by the national government based in Khartoum. Services and infrastructure were set up to serve the north at the expense of the South. The extent of marginalization was exacerbated by the long drawn civil war. During the period of the war, educational facilities for example those at the University of Juba were moved to Khartoum. Although the Juba University continued to bear this name, the population in the South did not derive any benefit from its facilities, which effectively served the North. The effect of such examples of systematic and institutional marginalization led to gross underdevelopment within South Sudan in three fundamental areas: the lack of institutional support infrastructure (including educational institutions); the lack of human resources and skills; and low levels of economic progress. The establishment of SIUC presents an opportunity through which this region can experience the establishment of an institution with world class infrastructure responsible for generating a highly skilled workforce to plug in the deficit that has grown over the years.
The unique role for SIUC is accentuated by the boom that followed the creation of the State of South Sudan. The emergence of this newly created state saw rapid inflow of foreign direct investments (financial and human resources) to plug various developmental needs e.g. roads, water, schools etc. These investments were accompanied by pull migratory forces as many citizens returned to their homes. Furthermore, skilled personnel from other countries also sought the growing opportunities presented within Africa’s newest state. This highly dynamic expansion that continuous toe exist is evidence of the need for a university of SIUC’s stature where local skills can be generated as a foundation to the rapid growth likely to continue in the next 50 years. Without the production of such local human resources, the region stands the risk of being dependent on skills grown in foreign contexts, which may not be amenable to the local context. SIUC’s sees itself as a catalyst in the overall objective of nurturing homegrown skills to address unique local realities.
During 2013, the optimism that greeted the newly created State was interrupted by the tragic event of an attempted coup. The aftermath of this even revealed ethnic fissures that are likely to impede the construction of the new state if not addressed. These ethnic tensions are easy to exploit in a region where the larger majority has not had the opportunity of an advanced education. Conversely, it can be said that the ability for such negative forces to thrive is mitigated by high literacy levels within the population. SIUC seeks to embed itself as a vehicle through which knowledge can be imparted to the youth of the country and the creation of a national identity can thrive. The future of a democratic South Sudan rests on nurturing leadership values and democratic ideals at universities like SIUC.
By virtue of its history and location, SIUC finds itself with a unique role of providing leadership in tertiary education within South Sudan. This role has to be fulfilled within the context of the changing paradigms mentioned in the preceding paragraphs. Furthermore, SIUC seeks to demonstrate this leadership within the context of the global arena. This means that the University must take into account the standards and dynamic changes inherent in the international character of higher education learning in order to seize new opportunities and partnerships that will strengthen the quality of education it will offer. In this regard, SIUC seeks to cast out a strategic plan for its first five years (2016-2021). The strategic plan charts a direction guided by shared vision, mission and strategic thinking based on an awareness of its potential position regionally and globally. Through this strategic plan, SIUC will marshal its strengths around opportunities, in order to address its weaknesses and minimize associated threats to is development and contribution to the society in general.