Fresh start for NUL

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WHEN Sharon Siverts was appointed National University of Lesotho (NUL) new vice-chancellor in February we hailed her appointment as a necessary step in reversing years of free-fall at our premier institution of higher learning.

We have not shifted from that position.

We believe new brooms sweep clean.

Speaking at a hand-over ceremony last week Siverts appeared to be under no illusion of the big task before her.

She spoke eloquently about her transformative agenda in seeking to make NUL “a place of opportunity and a disciplined community”.

“Our job is to continuously improve the quality of education we offer, making sure the programmes we offer are relevant and demand-driven, that students graduate with professional and entrepreneurial skills,” Siverts said.

We sense there has been a “feel-good” atmosphere at NUL since Siverts’ appointment last February.

Her appointment generated a real buzz of excitement within the university’s corridors.

Siverts must seize this moment and turn around the university’s fortunes.

She must seek to transform Lesotho’s premier university into a competitive institution that is in sync with the demands of industry.

In short the university must meet the manpower needs of the country.

To carry out that mandate we expect Siverts to undertake a comprehensive and honest assessment of the university’s
curricula.

We all know too well that Lesotho is in desperate need of engineers, medical doctors and pharmacists, among other professionals.

We find it unfathomable that 40 years after independence Lesotho still does not have a medical school to train its own doctors.

We have to import doctors from neighbouring countries whose loyalty and dedication are sometimes questionable.

In short, this is a national embarrassment.

The appointment of Siverts offers an opportunity to correct this anomaly.

The university has an opportunity to arrest the freefall and chart a fresh path towards prosperity.

It must not let this chance slip.

The first step, in our view, is to carry out a proper assessment of the degrees and programmes that are on offer at NUL.

Any programmes that are out of sync with the demands of industry must be ditched with the resources being chanelled elsewhere.

We are too poor to fund degrees that do not appear to add any value to our modern needs as a country.

We will certainly be shooting ourselves in the foot if we, as a nation, allow our students at universities to pursue knowledge for knowledge’s sake.

This transformation that we are proposing must cut across all faculties and departments.

The NUL family, which for years has been split along factional lines, must also learn to bury the hatchet and pull in the same direction.

As chief executive Siverts must provide leadership.

The university has been crying out for good leadership for years.

But it is also important that the new administration does not stifle academic freedom in an effort to present a semblance of normality.

As Siverts correctly put it last week, the university should be “a place for discovery, dialogue and discussion on all aspects of life”.

There have just been too many fights at NUL resulting in both teaching staff and students being side-tracked from their core business.

Siverts must be strong in enforcing discipline.

She must cultivate a new dispensation in which the NUL community does away with the culture of protests and endless demonstrations.

Such protests have in the past irreparably soiled NUL’s reputation. NUL needs a fresh start.

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Lesotho’s widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa.

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