National University of Lesotho (NUL) vice-chancellor, Nqosa Mahao, has urged “interested parties” to help upgrade the institution and ensure it does not look like “a mere community college”.
Professor Mahao said the facelift is supposed to begin later this year and seeks to make the country’s leading university more attractive to both local and foreign students.
Addressing the media in Maseru on Tuesday this week, Professor Mahao said NUL was currently in a state of “grave deficit” in terms of resources which was making it look very ordinary and unattractive to students and staff.
“At the moment, we are an institution which lacks the capacity to attract foreign students and intellectuals because of the poor state of infrastructure. Foreign students look at our facilities and just by the appearance of our university, they begin to wonder whether we could be the right college to provide for their educational requirements. International intellectuals also shun us because we look unattractive,” he said.
Professor Mahao further revealed the Lesotho Council on Higher Education, which oversees all the country’s tertiary institutions, in 2014 gave NUL a two-year deadline to either revamp its facilities or lose some of its educational programmes.
“The Council made it clear in its report last year that we must upgrade our facilities with more emphasis on students’ accommodation. This oversight body gave us two years to do this, and was clear if we don’t do something about it during that period, it could be left with no choice but close down some programmes we offer,” the vice-chancellor said.
Because of the “huge task” at hand, Professor Mahao said it was necessary for every interested party—from the private sector, individual businesspeople, the varsity’s former students and ordinary citizens—to come to the party and make financial input to the project.
The professor further said the project was enshrined in the NUL draft Strategic Plan of 2015-2020.
“I think the whole process of upgrading the university will take us up to seven years. At the heart of the plan is the growth of the university in its academic programme offering, as well as student-enrolment. The goal is to increase student-enrolment from the current 10000 to 18 000 over the next five years.”
However, for NUL to achieve this objective, Professor Mahao said management had since devised three ways to attract investors.
“We have suggested three ways by which we hope to attract investors in this campaign. The first one is through the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model in which we are seeking companies or groups with financial muscle to partner with NUL and invest in the university through infrastructure-development.
“Secondly, we are looking for financial assistance by way of grants. We are appealing to organisations, both local and international, to donate funds to us to fulfill this development. And lastly, we are seeking financial contributions even from the community and our alumni. No-matter how much you will put in, we will appreciate it,” Professor Mahao added.
Among key areas earmarked for development is students’ accommodation, with Professor Mahao highlighting the dire state of the situation.
“At the moment, the university can only accommodate 1300 students. If the projection for student-enrolment to 18 000 over the next five years is realised, the need and demand for hostel facilities is obvious,” he said.
“Again, a special student-centre is needed. Our current student welfare offices are small and inadequate. And all this needs funding, hence our special appeal for assistance to make the upgrading a reality.”