‘Quality education non-negotiable’

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Dr Mahali Phamotse
Dr Mahali Phamotse

Pascalinah Kabi

EDUCATION and Training Minister Dr Mahali Phamotse has urged tertiary institutions to recruit qualified lecturers to improve the quality of learning.

The minister made the remark during the official launch of Botho University at its Maseru Mall campus on Monday. The university became operational in Lesotho in 2014 and made its first intake in July 2015. It currently offers seven programmes accredited by the Council on Higher Education (CHE) and has enrolled 200 students.

Among the dignitaries in attendance at the colourful launch ceremony was Prince Seeiso Bereng Seeiso and government ministers.

Dr Phamotse said tertiary institutions should prioritise bringing value for the hard earned money students pay.

“Value for money matters even at the higher education level. Institutions, on the other hand, must guard against mismanagement by recruiting staff of a calibre that shall ensure the quality and relevance of higher education to Lesotho’s needs,” Dr Phamotse said.

“I have instructed the tertiary department in my ministry to never hesitate to put the academic leadership of all institutions, Botho included, under the leadership of a highly qualified personnel of professors, doctors and academics of renowned academic acumen. I believe Botho University shall not fail us in this regard.”

She said parents of Botho University students could rest assured that the institute met CHE standards. The council was established to promote quality in the higher education subsector.

“Botho University therefore remains one of the safest private institutions locally so parents can confidently spend their limited savings by sending their children to the institution,” Dr Phamotse said.

The minister said she was committed to removing all barriers to new entrants in the higher education sub-sector.

“This government values competition. My ministry strongly aspires for a diverse, competitive system that can offer different types of higher education so that students choose freely between a wide range of providers and programmes,” Dr Phamotse said.

She, however, warned tertiary education providers to abide by the minimum standards set by the ministry.

“I must emphasise that Lesotho’s higher education sub-sector has room only for high quality providers,” said the minister.

“We therefore will not allow defaulters on measures put in place to protect the future aspirations of the Basotho students.

“The minimum programme accreditation standards must be observed fully, institutional accreditation standards must be observed fully; and adherence to the requirements for registration of higher education institutions is mandatory. Our higher education sub-sector must become the envy of the world.”

For her part, Botho University Vice-Chancellor Sheela Raja Ram said the institute would continue to comply with higher education regulations. “I would like to thank the government of Lesotho, the Ministry of Education and Training, the Ministry of Development Planning and Ministry of Finance for having faith in us and for sponsoring students to study with us,” Ms Raja Ram said.

“I would also like to thank the CHE for taking us through the various, very elaborate and rigorous regulatory approvals. Botho University is perfectly comfortable subjecting ourselves to very rigorous regulatory quality assurance.”

She said the regulations were not new to them as they underwent similar procedures in Botswana. Ms Raja Ram said Botho University was founded in Botswana in 1997 as a computer training institute and grew to become a multidisciplinary college and then a university.

The vice-chancellor also said they would build a similar campus to the one in Botswana if the university’s enrolment continues to increase.

“It is our assurance that should there be good enrolment of students and our board members feel comfortable about the viability and sustainability of our operations in Lesotho, we can have a campus similar to Botswana in Maseru provided that we are able to manage our risk,” said Ms Raja Ram.

The relatively small number of students, she said, had enabled a low student-faculty ratio thus making the university more competitive.

Ms Raja Ram also said the university was making full use of technology by exposing students to e-library services, with each student having been given a tablet computer so they can access the facility at any time and anywhere.

“Entrepreneurship modules are embedded in all our programmes, and given that the government is no longer the biggest employer and that competition is high in the market place, we are producing job creators instead of job seekers,” she said.

“Lesotho needs new skills and our programmes are designed in a way that will boost the economy. We are focusing on the holistic development of each student.”

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