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Foolish fury and naked hypocrisy

by Lesotho Times
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Hell has no fury like a demystified bunch of graduates.

For merely pointing out that standards at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) university have plunged to the lowest of levels Scrutator received an avalanche of vitriol-laden missives.

At the last count there was a record 76 comments and more were still coming.

Those really furious called her a “devil” while the disillusioned ones called on the university management to sue Scrutator for alleged defamation.

Unprintable words were used to describe Scrutator’s marital status and anatomy. 

You would think Scrutator had urinated in the village water-well to attract such outrage yet all she did was to remind compatriots that NUL is not beyond scrutiny and its graduates are not above criticism.

Particularly disturbing is the fact that most of the responses did not exhibit the substance and grit expected from university graduates.

Scrutator merely told it like it is: that the quality of graduates from the university has deteriorated in recent years.

But Scrutator is least perturbed by such charlatans who resort to abuse and threats every time they are reminded that their view is not the one that makes the world go round.

Scrutator just reminded those people that NUL or its graduates are not the centre of the universe. 

The responses were not surprising because such people are used to saying things without anyone challenging them.

Those who dare challenge their views are reminded that because they have never set foot at NUL there is nothing of substance they can say to the so-called graduates.

They should be listened to simply because they are NUL graduates.

But give their ideas a little shove and they will crumble for they are not based on sound analysis or logic.

Scrutator therefore stands by every word she said in that instalment.

There will be neither a retraction nor an apology because instead of disproving her article the comments from the so-called NUL graduates buttressed it.

Most of the comments have proven beyond any shred of doubt that there is a dearth of critical thinking at the university.

There is a “famine” of analytical thinking at that college.

Mediocrity was written all over the comments.

One graduate tried to argue, with astounding vim, that NUL was not a school but a university.

The ineptitude with which some of the so-called learned people tried to make their point was quite embarrassing.

Then there was one who retrieved some irrelevant university rankings to prove that NUL is better than many universities in the world.

He said out of 17 036 universities NUL is ranked at position 5 500.

That number, according to him, was supposed to prove that NUL is in the better half of universities in the world.

But in his rush to prove his worth and that of the university the pretender missed the finer print.

He failed to notice that those rankings are in fact based on the universities’ use of the web and information technology.

“Webometrics ranking is measuring the volume, visibility and impact of the web pages published by universities, with special emphasis in the scientific output,” say the owners of the website that the proud NUL graduate tried to use as evidence.

“Candidate students should not use this data as the sole guide for choosing a university, although a top position means that the institution has a policy that encourages new technologies and it has resources for their adoption,” the website warns.

It is therefore as clear as a goat’s behind that the Webometrics rankings have nothing to do with academic excellence.

It was such a sad sight watching a battalion of misdirected graduates lynching their reputation and that of their university with such gusto.

Scrutator wept.

For years people have tried hard to avoid offending untouchable NUL graduates with a candid assessment of their institution.

NUL has been left to its own devices, insulated by the fact that the people are scared to rock the boat.

The sum total of this self-censorship is that NUL has run itself aground. 

Yet it remains arrogant and ignorant regarding its real purpose in our society: that of training people who are useful to this country’s economic development.

Because no one questions it, NUL feels it has no obligation to transform itself so that it can remain relevant to the needs of this country.

When it comes to the quality of the graduates NUL is simply telling the nation to “take it or leave it”.

The curriculum has remained largely the same since 1975 yet Lesotho and the world have moved ahead.

It is sad that the University of Botswana, which is younger than NUL has since started training doctors while NUL still busies itself with training nurses who think putting a drip on a patient is the role of a doctor.

Your 10 toes are more than enough to count the number of professors that NUL has produced over the past 15 years.

If you walk into any bookshop in Lesotho or the world you are hard pressed to find any good book, whether fiction or academic, written by anyone from NUL.

Of course there are some few books but for a university as old as NUL those books are embarrassingly few.

Published academic papers are equally scarce.

That many NUL graduates are functionally illiterate and numerically illiterate is a sad reality that we have to accept as a country.

We will never move forward as a country if we insist on burying our “heads in the sand like ostriches”, hoping that one day the inconvenient truth will just disappear.

The status quo at NUL cannot be allowed to remain.

The debate about the quality of the education that NUL is imparting to our young people must continue for as long as that university exists.

It does not matter whether the debate was started by Scrutator, the government, the industry or the povo.

There are those who are quick to point out the obvious fact that NUL has produced prominent people in the world and the country to justify that any criticism of the college is unfair.

I pity those people for they are deliberately misunderstanding a clear argument: the debate is about NUL today  and not its past.

It is about what ails the college now.

It is about how the university is being run now.

It is about the quality of its products now.

One comment tried to peddle the name of the former governor of the Reserve Bank of South Africa Tito Mboweni (pictured above), who got his first degree from NUL in 1985, to prove that the university has good standards.

Well, Scrutator has no doubt that if Mboweni was to come back to NUL he would be shocked at how things have fallen apart or remained stagnant over the last quarter of a century.

The same applies to prominent lawyers that this country has produced, one of whom works for the International Court of Justice.

In 1974 there were just about 20 undergraduate students in the Faculty of Law but today there are as many as 200 in the same faculty.

But the resources have remained almost the same.

NUL graduates should not cling on to a legacy that has since been destroyed by poor management, unending bickering and lack of vision.

As one African saying goes, “the bygone days of plenty cannot mollify a hungry child”.

The former deputy president of South Africa  Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka might have graduated from NUL in 1980, but that doesn’t prove anything about NUL’s quality as of now.

There are many prominent people in government who have gone through NUL but that doesn’t mean if you crtiticise NUL then you are insulting them.

They too are concerned about the state of NUL today.

While reading the comments Scrutator could not help but notice that apart from the misdirected anger most of the comments were pregnant with irony.

The same NUL graduates who criticise the quality of our public institutions are now choking with anger because Scrutator has pointed out the weaknesses of their college. 

Each time Scrutator opens a newspaper or news website she finds these so-called graduates hurling insults at the government and cabinet ministers.

They say the government is corrupt without giving concrete evidence.

When a civil servant is caught stealing they call the whole government corrupt.

And when you ask them to provide hard evidence they will twist their face in anger before accusing you of being a supporter of the ruling LCD as if that is a crime.

When there is a shortage of drugs at the country’s hospitals they scream at the health minister and accuse her of being incompetent.

When students’ grants don’t come on time they say the whole government has failed.

Scrutator has seen comments from readers blasting this country’s institutions without providing evidence.

When it’s others who are being blasted the so-called NUL graduates are quick to talk about freedom of expression and a host of other freedoms whose real meaning I suspect they don’t understand.

Yet when Scrutator says something about their NUL the same people go berserk and even call for her to be hanged.

Such is the hypocrisy that is killing our beautiful Kingdom.

We are selective in our criticisms because we want to protect our turfs.

We make battle cries every time our views are questioned. 

The Catholic Church, the biggest Christian denomination in the world, has been rabidly criticised for its stance on issues like condoms and family planning yet it has not excommunicated dissenting voices.

What’s so special about NUL that it cannot be criticised?

Finally Scrutator would like to address concerns by some graduates that the sample that she used to reach the conclusion that NUL is a “high school masquerading as a university” is wrong.

Well, Scrutator doesn’t need to conduct a research or a survey before she expresses her opinion about national institutions, especially those like NUL that gobble hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ money every year but yet doesn’t bother to account for it.

The biggest sample came in the form of comments which she received this week.

In the meantime be assured that for as long as the management of that institution continues to bungle and the standards continue to slide Scrutator will forever criticise it.

Those graduates allergic to criticism had better get used to this new dispensation.

Truth cannot shatter the bond of friendship.

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