MASERU — Students at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) began writing their exams on Monday after management awarded striking lecturers a 10 percent pay hike.
The university has also paid the lecturers their December salaries which had been withheld after they embarked on an indefinite strike last November.
The strike by lecturers forced the university to call off the first semester final examinations after lecturers refused to invigilate and mark the examinations.
The Lesotho University Teachers and Researchers Union (Lutaru) had said its members would not resume work until a resolution was found to their grievances of poor working conditions, unsatisfactory salaries and “marginalisation” of teaching and research staff.
Lutaru president Ramohapi Shale said they suspended the strike after negotiations with the university management.
Shale said management had agreed to deal with some of their grievances.
He said the management drew up a budget and has already bought some of the equipment.
“The management has already bought some of the office equipment. I now have a computer on my desk as we speak. There is a budget to buy teaching, classroom and housing equipment. They offered a 10 percent salary increment,” Shale said.
“We had demanded a 25 percent salary increment. There is still the remaining 15 percent that we will talk about with the management,” he said.
He said more negotiations will resume later when lecturers have finished marking the examinations.
“There are still issues that need to be resolved but that cannot get in the way of business.”
In the meantime, he said, the strike has been suspended until June.
NUL is currently facing serious financial problems.
The government, the university’s chief funder, is short on funds because of reduced revenues from the Southern African Customs Union.
There are unconfirmed reports that the college might be forced to cut its intake this year because the government, which sponsors almost all the students, does not have money.
The fact that the varsity has failed to account for the millions it has received from the treasury made the situation worse.
The government, officials in the finance ministry say, is worried that the university has produced qualified accounts for the past six years.
The university is currently paying salaries and other overheads from a bank overdraft because its budget has already been exhausted.
It is also sitting on an M39 million budget deficit that management sources say could worsen unless the university starts living within its means.