Resolve problems at Machabeng

Machabeng CollegeAs explained in our lead story, Machabeng College, which is regarded as the best school in Lesotho, is in crisis.

The school has been rocked by massive resignations amid allegations of misappropriation of funds, racial tensions and pay squabbles.

The school’s headmaster, Dr Bruce Gilbert, abruptly quit earlier this month as the school board that was investigating allegations of misappropriation of funds was about to wrap up its probe.

The crisis is likely to destabilise the school which in effect is a national asset.

That would be unfortunate.

There is no doubt that Machabeng College has played a key role in the education of Basotho children since the school was formed in 1984*.

It has continued to churn out excellent academic results over the years as it provided a world-class education for our children.

For the past three decades the school has built a solid reputation on the market.

It is precisely for these reasons that we are seriously disturbed by the turn of events at the school.

It is therefore critical that a solution that is agreeable to the two sides, locals and expatriates, is found immediately to ensure the school continues to execute its mandate.

What is happening at the college has serious ramifications for the future of Lesotho’s children. A solution must be found to secure the future of these children.

In a surprisingly candid interview with this newspaper yesterday, the school board’s chairman, Habofanoe Lehana, bared his soul over the recent developments.

He said local teachers had expressed concern that expatriate teachers were being favoured with better salaries and benefits at the expense of teachers from Lesotho.

He said although the investigation is yet to be completed there is indeed an indication that there is favouritism in the recruitment and promotion of teachers.

Lehana said at least 50 percent of white expatriate teachers at Machabeng did not qualify to teach at the college as the majority of them did not have first degrees.

This is quite worrying.

But while this investigation is going on it is important that the board does not seem to be on a witch-hunt exercise against expatriate staff.

There should be no whiff of xenophobia against non-local staff.

We cannot also deny that the school needs to offer an attractive package to qualified expatriate staff to attract and retain their services.

Unless the college sees matters from that perspective it runs the risk of settling for mediocre local teachers while unnecessarily antagonising and driving away competent expatriate staff.

If that is allowed to happen there is only one direction the school will go: down into the gutter.

We have always felt that Machabeng College produced excellent students because of its international outlook brought by some of these expatriate teachers.

Of course no one in their right mind would hire incompetent teachers simply because they are expatriates. The board should obviously apply rigorous screening tests to get the best of these expatriates on offer. Race, colour or creed should play no role in the recruitment process.

It is in the nature of international organisations to maintain a two-tier system of remuneration for local and international staff.  This is a worldwide trend. It is a simple fact of life.

Crude as it might sound local teachers should learn to live with this reality.

But if local teachers hold the same qualifications as the expatriate staff and still get lower salaries surely this would be a travesty of justice and needs to be corrected immediately

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