ON February 1 or soon thereafter the National University of Lesotho (NUL) will have a new vice-chancellor.
The appointment of the university’s new chief executive officer follows what we believe was a thorough and meticulous selection process late last year.
Welcome on board, madam.
The new vice-chancellor’s tenure comes amid unprecedented chaos at our premier institute of higher learning.
But as a nation we are holding our breath and hoping for the best. We think the new vice-chancellor’s tenure could signal a complete break with the shoddy manner the university has been governed in the past.
We hope the new boss will steer the ship away from the troubled waters it has been sailing.
In our opinion the new vice-chancellor’s biggest asset could be the fact that she is a foreigner and brings to the university an internationalist dimension.
With no direct interest in NUL’s domestic politics, we expect her to rise above the petty jealousies and fights that are so prevalent at the institution.
The university is in a big mess.
Its reputation has been battered by years of infighting and mismanagement.
There is tension and polarisation at the university. Student and lecturers’ strikes over poor pay, scholarships and working conditions have become the order of the day.
The university has been reduced to a virtual war zone.
The current infighting has meant university lecturers have been sidetracked from their core business of teaching and research.
Years of conflict have resulted in half-baked students who are irrelevant to industry.
But first, the new vice-chancellor must stop the current hemorrhage.
This means putting a stop to the low-scale “civil war” that is going on among the NUL family.
The whole university community — lecturers, students and general staff — must rally behind the new vice-chancellor in charting a new course.
The university community needs to shift from the current “fighting mode” to give the new vice-chancellor a chance to stamp her mark.
Secondly, the vice-chancellor must also answer the vexing question as to how she intends to reshape the university to make it relevant to the country’s economic needs.
There is a perception that the university is completely out of touch with the needs of industry.
Some of the programmes offered at NUL are out of sync with the demands of industry.
The new vice-chancellor must start with a thorough audit to determine whether degrees that are being offered are in line with the needs of industry.
For example, more than 35 years after NUL was established Lesotho still relies on its neighbours to train its own medical doctors.
This is unacceptable.
We are fully aware that these structural problems will require time to fix.
But the new vice-chancellor must reassure the nation that she has the drive and vision to rectify these anomalies.
The National University of Lesotho will play a key role in determining how far this country progresses in the 21st century.
Thirdly, the new vice-chancellor must address the question of poor governance structures at the NUL.
She must also deal with the rampant indiscipline among management and students.
It is our fervent hope that the new vice-chancellor will prove to be a brilliant strategist who will unite the NUL family and help salvage its battered reputation.