National University of Lesotho (NUL) Vice-Chancellor (VC), Professor Nqosa Mahao, says he is on a mission to restore the varsity’s lost glory.
Professor Mahao was sworn-in as NUL’s ninth VC last Saturday during a ceremony held on campus and attended by the university’s Chancellor, King Letsie III, and immediately outlined his vision of ensuring the college reclaims its pride of place among the global community of institutions of higher learning.
The Law Professor, who assumed office on 20 November 2014—exactly 14 months after the departure of the university’s eighth VC, Sharon Siverts, following the American’s two turbulent years at the helm of the institution—said NUL’s transformation was possible through radical reforms which recognised the critical and complementary roles played by the students, staff, government and the private sector.
According to the vice-chancellor, there would be four priorities on his administration’s agenda in this drive to restore NUL’s erstwhile respect.
“Top on the agenda for this administration is to institutionalise a student-centred learning and service environment. Our students are not an inconvenience or nuisance, but the reason all of us are employed by this institution,” Professor Mahao said.
“The second agenda is to create better and fulfilling working conditions for all NUL employees, because our workers are the most valuable resource the university possesses.
“Thirdly, we need to revamp our academic project for enhanced return on investment by the students and effective response to national socio-economic challenges of our times. Fourthly, we need to stabilise and revamp the financial resources of our university so that it has adequate capacity to service its developmental needs.”
Professor Mahao also said his administration would give priority to extending “technological provisioning” on campus, reducing overcrowded classes through proper staffing and fairer distribution of workloads which he highlighted to be a precondition for quality tuition.
He further said NUL should find ways of overcoming “challenges” of poorly-equipped laboratories and lack of modern teaching aids.
Professor Mahao also applauded the private sector for playing a leading role in ensuring quality accommodation for the students, but pointed out government and the university itself should not absolve themselves of this responsibility because of this.
“In the coming years, we shall work towards providing on-campus accommodation for not less than 50 percent of our students, as this is essential for quality learning.
“Improving the overall quality of campus life, including a steady development of modern sporting, cultural and recreational facilities, shall also receive our urgent attention as an administration,” he said.
The VC also revealed plans to double NUL’s enrolment which currently stands at approximately 10 000, while also introducing distance-learning through its appendage—the Institute of Extra-Mural Studies (IEMS).
“IEMS in Maseru shall be charged with a renewed mandate of offering courses which are also available at the Roma campus. These studies would be offered online through an Open and Distance Learning (ODL) platform.
“The optimal deployment of technology through ODL will enable our compatriots sitting at their computers, be it in Mokhotlong, Thaba-Tseka, Semonkong and indeed elsewhere, to fully pursue their university studies, and more cheaply at that.
“We are already making progress with the ODL through support from the Commonwealth and University of South Africa.”
Professor Mahao added NUL needed to “re-engineer” its curriculum and “tilt it” towards “hard sciences” such as agriculture and engineering.
“In our context, NUL’s transformation would not have achieved its national objectives if it falls short of arresting, in a significant way, much of the undergraduate training Lesotho carries out beyond its borders.
“Curriculum re-design will be one of our principal aims to repatriate and localise current extra-territorial training, together with resources expanded on it which are a huge burden on the taxpayer.”