Embrace change or sink into irrelevance

NATIONAL University of Lesotho (NUL) Vice-Chancellor Professor Sharon Siverts’ assessment of what needs to be done at the
country’s premier institute of higher learning was candid and
It captured what needs to be done to reverse decades of mismanagement at the country’s premier university.
The proposed solutions also appear workable.
All Basotho who are concerned about the future of this country should therefore rally behind Siverts as she seeks to turn around the fortunes of the university.
It is through such support that Siverts can be able to quickly get the university back on the rails.
Any other counter action by reactionaries bent on halting this change agenda should be regarded as nothing short of treasonous.
The mind-boggling culture of lack of accountability that had been allowed to fester like a malignant tumour must come to a stop.
It is common cause that things had deteriorated at NUL over the years.
But we had never been prepared to comprehend the extent of the rot at the university.
As mentioned in one of our reports elsewhere in this issue, workers at NUL are coming to work drunk and “glassy eyed” as Siverts put it.
Workers are hostile to taking instructions from supervisors.
Others are idle and underutilised and refuse to take any initiative to get things done.
Workers at NUL are demanding extra payment for duties that are undertaken.
Lecturers have opened private businesses in Maseru and fiddle with the teaching timetable to make room for their private practices.
In brief NUL has simply become ungovernable.
On the academic front the curriculum has not been reviewed in over a decade.
Lecture rooms are overcrowded.
Textbooks are in short supply.
The library is not up to date.
“It is a result of these circumstances that we have witnessed a higher-than-normal student failure rate . . . it is obvious that where students are neglected and are not taught properly because teachers have other priorities they will not do well in their studies,”
Siverts said.
Why things were allowed to deteriorate this far boggles the mind.
This is indeed a depressing scenario.
Siverts could have simply walked away.
To her credit she has not done so.
She appears fully committed to taking the bull by the horns in charting a fresh path for the university.
The candid assessment however confirms what we have been saying all along.
We have argued in previous editorials that the NUL needs to change direction or sink into irrelevance.
But the task of reversing the rot should not be Siverts’ alone.
It is too big a task for one individual.
The vice-chancellor needs 100 percent support from all stakeholders at NUL – lecturers, students and non-academic staff as well as the government.
Without that buy-in from key stakeholders the fight for change is doomed.
That is a frightening prospect.
This new restructuring phase must not be allowed to fail.
A return to the culture of endless protests and demonstrations that for years have characterised relations at NUL could have
devastating consequences for the nation, holding back national progress.
We are pleased to note that Siverts appears clear about the
task at hand, including that there are individuals who are viscerally opposed to change.
She must go on a charm offensive to convince even the dissenting voices to embrace the changes that she is proposing for the national good. She needs to win over these hostile forces to her side.
That will be a test of her leadership.

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