OUR sister paper, the Sunday Express, this week carried a shocking story about the mess at our premier learning institution, the National University of Lesotho (NUL).
In a candid interview with the Sunday Express, the chairman of the university’s council, Dr Molotsi Monyamane, painted a picture of an institution in terminal decline.
Monyamane said NUL was in such a big mess due to poor governance structures and gross indiscipline among lecturers and students.
The new university council headed by Monyamane clearly has its work cut out.
We are glad that the new council which was appointed in December appears to have hit the road running in its bid to sort out the mess at the university.
The new council has our full blessings.
In one of its biggest decisions so far, the council two weeks ago wielded the axe on former vice-chancellor Professor Adelani Ogunrinade.
Ogunrinade, a Nigerian with impeccable academic credentials, was facing serious charges of embezzling donor funds.
With the allegations weighing heavily on his shoulders, Ogunrinade had in fact become a liability to the university and the nation.
Given the raft of misdeeds Ogunrinade was accused of perpetrating it was clear that his dismissal as NUL boss was long overdue.
With Ogunrinade out of the way, the new council has a golden opportunity to right what went wrong at the university since the Nigerian’s appointment in December 2006.
The council must appoint a competent individual as the chief financial officer of the university.
Other office bearers like the registrar and faculty deans must also be sufficiently empowered to act as checks and balances to the office of vice-chancellor.
The days of the all-powerful and all-knowing vice-chancellor are long gone.
It is the duty of a university council to make policies and set standards of higher learning.
The new council including the new vice-chancellor to be appointed soon clearly have a lot of work to do if they are to turn things around.
The council must break the cycle of brilliant academics who are poor managers. Such poor recruitment strategies have proved costly in the past.
The challenge is in identifying the right candidate for the top job. This will save the council and nation a lot of heartache.
The university needs a man or woman of vision who can haul the institution into the 21st century.
The council needs to bring the university’s academic programmes in line with the demands of modern industry.
In our humble opinion, we think there is something seriously wrong with the quality of graduates from NUL.
When university graduates cannot spell or do basic arithmetic or accounting procedures, then the nation must have real cause to worry.
We are aware of the bitter friction and factionalism within the university’s teaching staff and student body.
But any university worth its salt will always strive to maintain an international outlook by deliberately going all out to recruit brilliant minds from across the globe.
A university that seeks to insulate itself in a cocoon against the wider outside world would only do so at its own peril.
The new council must therefore go out of its way to attract and retain good quality professors regardless of nationality, colour or ethnicity.
All modern and progressive universities thrive on the academic, ethnic and cultural diversity of their students and teaching staff.
The council must also ensure that teaching staff get their hands dirty and devote most of their time to teaching and research.
Teaching is a vocation and those charged with that national responsibility must be seen to be discharging their duties conscientiously.
The business of university lecturers running their small, private enterprises during working hours must come to a stop.
The truth of the matter is that NUL’s reputation is now soiled.
Once a reputation is soiled it is always difficult to reverse.
We expect the new council to work its socks off in restoring lustre to the country’s premier institute of learning.
But this call demands nothing short of a complete overhaul.