NATIONAL University of Lesotho (NUL) students are mulling a massive strike over “unfair treatment” from government following a decision to pay only a part of their tuition fees.
The National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS) failed to pay the new NUL tuition fees for its sponsored students for the 2016/17 academic year and that decision resulted in the university demanding the shortfall from the students.
The shortfall ranges from M800 to M6 450 depending on the programme.
According to a letter dated 7 February, 2017 and titled “Tuition Fees for 2016-2017”, NUL Registrar Liteboho Maqalika-Lerotholi notified all students that the tuition fees were determined by the University council and published by the Bursar.
“This notice is made following the realisation by the University that the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS) has, for some students, paid tuition fees that are below those published by the University, resulting in a shortfall in payable fees for some students,” Ms Maqalika-Lerotholi said.
She added: “NMDS sponsored students are therefore advised to approach the office of the Bursar to establish any existing shortfall in their tuition fees and make arrangements to clear those balances by end of April 2017.”
Ms Maqalika-Lerotholi was reportedly in back-to-back meetings when contacted for comment.
However, the students are unhappy with the university’s directive and insist they will not pay for the shortfall as they had approached NMDS for sponsorship because they could not afford to pay for their tertiary education in the first place.
NUL Student Representative Council (SRC) secretary general Thato Ponya said, “Our stand is very clear and we have made it clear to the university that we are not going to pay any money owed to them by the NMDS”.
Mr Ponya said it was baffling that government was hiding behind the excuse that NUL management had not informed about the new fees prior to effecting new changes.
“South African universities attended by some NMDS sponsored students never consult our government when effecting new fees but government pays without any hesitation yet they want NUL to consult them. What kind of behaviour is this,” he asked rhetorically.
He said the students would strike to force government into settling this debt.
“How do you expect a student entirely depending on manpower for their survival at the university to raise M6000 in two months? We will not pay and government will eventually settle the debt.
“It is not our fault that they have failed to prioritise higher learning and have instead thrown money into the army and Bidvest deal,” he said, in reference to the controversial vehicle fleet services government awarded to the South African company last year.
“We know if we write the May examinations, the school might be forced to hold our results and one of the strategies we are going to use is to boycott the examinations,” he said.
Instead of commenting, NMDS information officer Moeketsi Rankhone responded with unprintable expletives directed at this reporter.