NUL must set new rules of engagement

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The National University of Lesotho (NUL) yesterday finally reopened its doors after two tumultuous months of bitter standoff between lecturers and management over pay and working conditions.

Lectures are now expected to resume on Tuesday. But matters should not have come this far.

Precious learning time has been lost since the strike began last October.

Students have been the biggest losers.

It is our hope that the university will now put in place an effective recovery programme to ensure it makes up for lost teaching time.

We believe there should be lessons that we can draw from the standoff if we are to chart an effective way forward for the ailing university.

The biggest lesson is that conflict is an impediment to progress.

That may seem pretty obvious.

The NUL community seems not to realise that they have been in fighting mode for years with disastrous results.

If the university is to extricate itself from the current mess all stakeholders must push in the same direction.

Lecturers must desist from seeing shadows where there are none.

The NUL family must also be imbued with a new spirit of working harmoniously in the pursuit of a common interest.

Anything short of this will mean the university will remain locked in a fighting mode with disastrous consequences for the institution.

We would like to believe the new management under Professor Sharon Siverts has done relatively well so far in identifying the causes that were partly contributing to the malaise at NUL.

Among these were indiscipline and the laissez faire attitudes that had been allowed to fester over the years.

We had lecturers abandoning their core business of teaching and research to focus on private pursuits.

But in spite of these challenges the university did not have power to discipline errant staff.

The current legislative apparatus did not empower the university management to whip errant staff into line.

This is the reason why we are happy that parliament recently passed the National University of Lesotho (Amendment) Bill that seeks to correct some of these challenges.

We believe this legislative framework will enable management at NUL to decisively deal with the current challenges.

As the university opens its doors on Tuesday management must leave no one in doubt as to who is in charge.

The striking lecturers must not be allowed to return on their own terms.

Management must set the new rules of engagement.

Unless NUL management flexes its muscles we risk seeing the varsity plunging into yet another crisis sooner rather than later.

We therefore want to urge NUL management to be tough with those bent on sowing discord.

This of course is not an endorsement for the creation of a repressive regime at NUL. A university must be able to nurture and encourage dissenting views if we are to find solutions to the complex problems plaguing humanity.

This of course should not mean a university should promote and encourage anarchist tendencies as we have seen in the past at NUL.

But the reality is that NUL is broke.

The university says it has no money to award the 15 percent salary increment as demanded by the lecturers. This is unfortunate.

The NUL community must work together in finding a way out of the current crisis. We believe time has come for all at NUL to bury the hatchet and chart a fresh path for the university.

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