Stop this confrontation

THREATS to embark on fresh protests at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) could deal a fatal blow to attempts to revive the university.
The Congress of Lesotho Trade Unions (Coletu) this week said it will picket at the university “in solidarity with students and members of its affiliate unions who have been affected by . . . the low intake of students”.
The Lesotho University Teachers and Researchers Union has also made similar threats to down tools.
We think the decision to embark on the strike action is not only misguided but also highly counter-productive.
Rather than help solve long-standing problems at NUL the decision to take to the streets will drag the university back into the era of confrontational politics that had proved to be the bane of the institution.
Such a confrontational attitude will not help the teachers’ unions.
The strike action will also not help restore the university’s battered image.
We are also disappointed that the university lecturers have not given the newly appointed vice-chancellor Sharon Siverts space to implement her reform agenda.
Hardly four months into her post, we realise there are individuals at NUL who are not only hostile to new ideas but are bent on resisting change.
Siverts must not give in.
She must stand her ground.
She must exorcise the ghost of resistance that wants to impede progress.
We think the lecturers must give the vice-chancellor enough space to chart a fresh course for the troubled university.
But beyond the rumblings of discontent from the union leaders we need to understand the anger that is feeding this resistance to change.
It is a well-known fact that NUL is broke.
The university is operating on a shoestring.
This is because the government, which is the main funder, has implemented belt-tightening measures across all sectors of the economy.
Higher education is among the sectors that have been hit as a result of this process.
The reduction in the intake of students is a direct response to the budget cutting measures.
We cannot run away from this economic reality.
With the cutting of the intake of students jobs are likely to be lost across the board.
We think the cutting of the intake, painful as it might seem, is inevitable under the circumstances.
The NUL community must allow this process of realignment to proceed regardless of how painful it might be.
It is also clear that some university programmes will have to be sacrificed.
But these cost-cutting measures are not unique to NUL.
The global economic downturn has affected most universities around the world.
Even the best universities in Western countries that are better resourced have had to embark on painful cost-cutting measures.
Organisations embark on cost-cutting measures because they realise such a process is a matter of survival.
Lecturers at some of these universities have been forced to take salary cuts. Some universities have banned all unnecessary travel.
They have also reduced their annual intake.
We therefore find it extremely odd for NUL lecturers to cry foul every time proposals are made to revive the university and chart a fresh way forward.
We would therefore urge Coletu and Lutaru leaders who are backing the protest action to step back and reflect on the dire consequences of dragging the university back into the confrontational past.

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