No easy fix for NUL

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Professor Sharon SivertsThe National University of Lesotho (NUL) has become a sore spot which refuses to heal in the body of the Basotho nation.

That the varsity is in dire need of a makeover has been reported ad nauseam, but that fact alone is the problem.

If a problem becomes all too familiar there is a danger that the nation can get so used to it as to become lethargic about it.

Addressing a gathering of his All Basotho Convention (ABC) supporters at Nyakosoba village in the Maama constituency, Prime Minister Thomas Motsohae Thabane took time to bare his heart about the pain every patriotic Mosotho feels about this invaluable national asset. The Prime Minister raised a lot of questions in an attempt to determine where the rain began to beat us. Thabane said it is unfortunate that today Basotho students are send to study in South Africa where they have to pay fees which are double what students pay at NUL.

He told the rally his wish is for all graduate studies to be taught in Lesotho universities by the end of his coalition government term. He went down memory lane, reminiscing about how NUL was highly regarded. Roma, as the National University of Lesotho is affectionately referred to by many alumni, was not only a source of academic pride for Basotho, Batswana and Swazis but was the citadel of civilisation for many other young aspiring academics in the entire region and beyond. Literally, if you made it to Roma then you would have “arrived”.

But, lately we have seen some of the worst results across faculties in the university’s life. Granted, it’s of no use romanticising about the past. Such nostalgia will only feed the pessimism that our children and those that will come after them would not need.

However, we have to think about the university’s past and face the institution’s turbulent present if we are going to make headway in mapping the institution’s future.

We believe Roma can reclaim its former glory if we honestly look ourselves in the mirror without spiting our reflection.

The will among us is still alive, so is the campus infrastructure fairly intact. We only need to overhaul the policies and practices that obtain at the sole state university.

It can be done, and it should be done without further ado.

We carry another story in which it is reported the varsity’s registrar Dr Tumelo Tsikoane’s has quit. Reports yet to be confirmed at the time of going to print last night suggested Vice Chancellor Professor Sharon Siverts had also resigned.

This would be unfortunate. Changing leadership for the sake of change is not the way to go. In fact the Chinese, renowned for their inimitable success on the economic front, actually say their model of leadership works because it ensures continuity; their leaders are not elected by popular ballot but they are chosen based on an individual’s experience and capacity.

The Asian giant argues that the Western model of democracy, which we follow, in which people are elected by popularity on a four- or five-yearly cycle breaks continuity and does not guarantee efficient leadership.

Similarly, if we keep changing leaders before they have had time to fully implement their medium or longer-term plans, then it will always be difficult to assess if their remedies were ever going to work or not. We believe our leaders at NUL are well meaning. But so are their critics. For this reason the varsity’s alumni can proactively act as impartial referees to weigh the ever divergent suggestions from various stakeholders.

Ultimately, no one but us as a nation is going to clean the mess for us. NUL should still be our source of pride; a repository of knowledge. When it comes to the future of NUL all our leaders should put politics aside knowing this fountain of knowledge will remain in place long after we are all dead and forgotten.

The departure of any leader from NUL does not guarantee the healing of this festering ulcer. Instead, like a boil, it can simply open a different front for fresh pain, thus merely repeating the cycle of movement without progress. Nothing short of a correct diagnosis of the sickness will bring a lasting solution. We think the solution should be as multi-pronged as the disease seems to be multi-faceted.

Among other changes crying for an overhaul; the curriculum needs to be changed, the entry requirements need to be looked at, staff welfare needs to be addressed, new synergies with other varsities around the world need to be sustained, research needs to be boosted and expanded while new funding models must explored.

After all is said, as with all institutions of higher learning anywhere, there is constant need to alter courses and tailor-make them for the needs of the day. Beyond all this, the mindset of both students and lecturers needs to change. In the days gone by employment was guaranteed as soon as one completed a degree. But things have changed and the situation is in a continuous state of flux.

We cannot afford to bask in yesteryear glory. We have to keep an eye on the ball; always negotiating and renegotiating tried and tru

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