Celebrating
a centenary
of Learning

  • 19
  • by Hon. Sam Felix Makuja
  • graduated 2008
  • studied Med in Education Leadership, Policy & Development (ELPD)
  • from South Sudan

I am currently the State Minister of Finance and Economic Planning in the State of Eastern Equatoria, Republic of South Sudan.

Prior to joining Bristol’s Graduate School of Education, I worked as an administrator, head teacher and class teacher in the different levels of education in South Sudan and in the Refugee camps in Uganda during the protracted civil war in Sudan 1983-2005, when the Comprehensive agreement (CPA) was signed between the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan. South Sudan eventually got its independence on July 9th 2011, making it the youngest and 193rd Country in the world.

I joined the Graduate School of Education in October 2007 on the Education Leadership, Policy & Development (ELPD) course. As well as the Master’s in Education, I have a BA in Education and a Postgraduate Diploma in Project Planning and Management Development, all from the Catholic University of East Africa, Nairobi, Kenya. I also have a Diploma in Primary Education from Kyambogo University, Kampala, Uganda.

I applied to and joined Bristol’s Graduate School of Education because it is a renowned School, especially in the field of Education. Thanks to Windle Trust International, a charitable organization based in the United Kingdom, I received a scholarship and encouragement to apply for a Master’s degree at Bristol.

The teaching and learning experience at Bristol was wonderful because of its committed lecturers and staff and because of the diversity of the students. Most students in the school, especially in Educational Leadership, Policy & Development, were international students from different parts of the world, who had travelled all the way to Bristol. We had students from Asia, North America, South America and Africa.

I enjoyed learning in the Graduate School because we could share experiences from different parts of the world and from different backgrounds. Michael Crossly, the Director of the Educational Leadership, Policy & Development course and Angelina Barrette, the Director of the Educational Quality course, were instrumental during my study. I also owe many thanks and much appreciation to Bridgette Blackmore, the Postgraduate Senior Admissions Administrator, whose advice and support encouraged me during my stay in the School.

Since I left Bristol in 2008, my life drastically changed for the better because, just a year after obtaining my Master’s degree, I contested for a parliamentary seat to represent my County in the State Legislative Assembly in our State of Eastern Equatoria in the Republic of South Sudan. In 2010, after the elections and the formation of the new government in South Sudan and the ten States, I was appointed as a State Minister of Health, in my State of Eastern Equatoria (June 2010- April 2012). I am currently the State Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, after a reshuffle of the government. Although the positions I have held as a minister are not relevant to my field of education, I am doing well to serve my people. It is my successful time at Bristol’s Graduate School of Education that has influenced my career.

Sincerely speaking, the knowledge and leadership skills taught to me in the Graduate School have enabled me to perform my ministerial duties to the best of my ability and to the expectations of my government. The Educational Leadership classes at the Graduate School have helped me to manage and lead such important Ministries as Health and, currently, Finance, where one meets diverse behaviors, personalities and challenges. Today, I am able to articulate political and social issues internationally. The diversity of the Graduate School enabled me to realize the importance of diversity in an organization – it helps one learn the importance of ideas and contributions from the different individuals in an organization.

I have always advised young South Sudanese undergraduates seeking further studies in Europe to apply to the Graduate School of Education because the school really offers competitive study opportunities, which enable one to compete in the international market of educational professionals. After the destructive civil war of 1983-2005, educational facilities in South Sudan were destroyed. When I retire from politics, I look forward to establishing a consultancy firm or opening a Private school where quality education will be emphasized and provided to our people in South Sudan. After the independence of South Sudan in July 2011, the Country had to start from scratch building structures and improving its educational standards. Today, children learn in unfriendly learning environments with a lack of text books and learning materials. Classrooms are often crowded, with few trained teachers. Hence, what is being taught is not quality education.

In conclusion, I once again appreciate and applaud Bristol’s Graduate School of Education for its commitment to educating leaders and professionals in the field of education for the last hundred years. It is these leaders that are making positive changes in the lives of the various countries all over the world. Today, my status – and my family’s standard of living – is far higher than it was before I joined the University of Bristol. The Graduate School of Education has made me what I am now.

Happy Centenary year – I wish the Graduate School another hundred years of service in Education.