MASERU — Government will this year drastically cut down on the number of students to be sponsored for studies at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) due to the lack of funds.
Education minister Dr ’Mamphono Khaketla told parliament on Tuesday that the government would only sponsor 1 120 new students instead of the usual 1 600.
The money saved will be channeled towards the sponsorship of a new intake of 400 students to study specialised courses in South Africa.
Khaketla warned that any additional students admitted by NUL will have to pay their own fees.
She told parliament that the government has reserved M719, 245, 822.18 for sponsorships to tertiary institutions in and outside the country for the 2011/2012 academic year.
For every student studying in South Africa, government has to cough up M78, 854 annually, which is almost twice the tuition fee for a NUL student and three times that of a Lerotholi Polytechnic learner.
This is a tacit climbdown from initial plans by government to stop funding new students to South Africa altogether.
Last year finance minister Timothy Thahane said government was going to stop funding students to South Africa because it did not have enough funds.
But it seems there has been a change of heart.
Instead, government now says NUL will have to reduce its intake so the country can continue to sent local students to South African universities.
Khaketla said the specialised courses to be undertaken by some of the 400 students in South Africa include water engineering and actuarial science.
“These are exclusive courses not offered by our country,” she told parliament.
The minister said government was last year unable to sponsor students to South Africa because NUL admitted students above the limit that the government had agreed to fund.
As a result of that mishap government had to source money to pay for the fees of the excess number of students.
“There was a public outcry for the government to sponsor those students, hence the decision to suspend sponsorships for students wishing to study in South Africa to pay for those who had already been admitted by NUL.”
In an interview with the Lesotho Times from London last night, Thahane told this paper that the plan to sponsor the 400 students to South Africa had always been a priority “despite financial constraints”.
“Last year our plans were derailed by NUL admitting more students than the government had planned to pay for. We had to take from funds reserved for students to South Africa to fund the excess,” Thahane said.
“But this year we had to enforce the admission of a reduced number (1 120 from 1 600) of students to NUL in order to make provision for 400 students to study for courses our country cannot offer.”
He said this was done so that there is no vacuum in 2011 of students pursuing specialised courses abroad.
Khaketla also informed parliament that although government was spending lots of money funding students’ education “they are reluctant to reimburse government”.
“My appeal to them is that once they complete their studies they should be honest and reimburse government in their multitudes,” she said.
“We also need to deliberate on how parents can contribute towards the education of their children. We need to work around this one together.”