Siverts blames indiscipline for high failure rate

ROMA — Professor Sharon Siverts, the National University of Lesotho (NUL) Vice-Chancellor, has blamed staff indiscipline for the “higher than normal failure rate”.
Siverts made the damning assessment during a press conference on Monday, her first since she was appointed vice-chancellor earlier this year.
In her candid eight-page statement Siverts portrayed NUL as virtually unmanageable and dysfunctional because of staff indiscipline and lack of commitment.
Some employees, Siverts said, “come to work drunk and glassy eyed”.
She said some employees abscond from work for as long as three months but still get their salaries.
She alleged that some workers do not report to work at all when they know that their supervisors are away.
“There are employees who do not take lawful instructions from their supervisors and do what is requested of them,” Siverts said in a no-holds-barred statement at the press conference.
She noted that there was evidence that some employees disappear on Fridays and Mondays “leaving a short work week”.
“There are staff who are idle, underutilised with not enough to do.”
She said some workers take “no or little initiative” and argue that “additional assignments are not in their job descriptions”.
“Some employees will only do additional assignments if they are paid extra. What organisation can survive with these patterns of behaviour?”
Siverts said although there is a “general disregard of authority” the university does not have “enough legal authority” to discipline delinquent employees because of loopholes in the NUL Act and statutes.
“The university has lived with the NUL Act and Statutes rather than fix them; as a result, for example, the university has been unable to discipline employees.”
Other employees have breached their contracts by establishing consulting companies in Maseru without the vice-chancellor’s permission.
Some workers have opened private offices and “are almost all the time in the courts of law”, Siverts said.
This was a reference to the lecturers from the university’s law faculty who moonlight as practising lawyers.
“In order to achieve the objectives of their private activities some of our staff cancelled classes, fiddled with the teaching time-table and some just resorted to cutting down the number of teaching hours,” Siverts said.
“It is as a result of these circumstances that we have witnessed a higher than normal student failure rate”.
“Though there are other contributing factors to the 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.
She further alleged that some employees are photocopying books and other documents using the university resources but sell the material to students and pocket the money.
She said employees run personal businesses from their offices using the university’s resources and use their businesses to have the university buy from them, misusing their positions of trust.
“Fundamental research is lacking; too many of the academic staff take on consultancies benefiting themselves but not dealing with the substantive research needs and issues of the nation.”
Siverts also revealed that there was a recent case of a staff member who was caught selling examination papers to students.
The vice-chancellor also criticised NUL’s system of appointing key people like directors, deans and heads of department through popular votes.
The result of this system, she said, is that “administrators who are elected do not take decisions which are in the interests of the unit/organisation”.
“And even if decisions are taken there is a pattern of “No follow-up” which makes progress difficult”.
Siverts also had no kind words for the students.
There are serious behaviour problems amongst the students as well, she said.
Apart from the lack of focus on the part of students, Siverts said, there is an “increasing use of alcohol and drugs which result in increased sexual behaviour, pregnancies and potential HIV/Aids”.
“None of these examples are acceptable for any institution, but these examples give some indication of the cancerous conditions at the university that must be corrected.”
The vice-chancellor however noted that because of the ongoing restructuring exercise change is on the way.
She said they had since completed a draft law to repeal the NUL Act.
“The spirit of the new Act is to empower management to make decisions in order to improve effectiveness. It will provide an enabling environment so direly needed to get NUL back on the right track.”

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