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Chaos mars NUL examinations

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

MASERU — Chaos and confusion marred the supplementary examinations that started at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) on Monday.
The Sunday Express can reveal that when the examinations started there were no invigilators and the timetable was chaotic.
Students who spoke to this paper said they had not been notified about the dates or venues for their examinations.
Some examination papers were not ready, the students said.
The students said in some cases they had to move from one lecture room to another before they could locate the correct venue for their examination.
Some lecturers submitted their question papers late, according to the students.
So chaotic were the supplementary examinations that lecturers were compelled to step in as invigilators for their respective subjects.
Under normal circumstances NUL hires outside individuals to work as invigilators during exams.
Ramohapi Shale, the president of the Lesotho University Teachers and Researchers Union (Lutaru) confirmed that the conduct of the examinations was messy.
Shale, who is also a law lecturer, blamed NUL Vice-Chancellor Professor Sharon Siverts for the confusion.
“There was chaos when the exams began. Some examinations were delayed. Question papers from other faculties were missing,” Shale said.
“Some lecturers were not present because we were all sent on forced leave. Invigilators were not hired to supervise the exams. It was a mess,” Shale said.
He said it was not normal for lecturers to invigilate examinations for their subjects.
“Part-timers are usually hired to invigilate the examinations. Lecturers only go to the exams hall briefly when the tests begin.”
‘‘Lecturers only go there to make clarifications to students who might not understand the questions or instructions, ‘‘ he said.
He said they were informed that Siverts had decided not to hire the invigilators.
“We were told that Siverts is the one who said that invigilators should not be hired. This whole restructuring thing is the one that caused all this mess.”
NUL’s acting communication and marketing director, Phomolo Lebotsa, said due to financial constraints the university management had to ask the teaching staff to prepare for the examinations.
“This is not a normal time for the university. There is a problem with the finances,” Lebotsa said.
“Lecturers have had to take part in the preparations for the examinations because the university cannot afford to hire as many external invigilators and examiners as it normally does.”
Lebotsa said only a few external examiners were hired.
He however denied allegations that all lecturers were sent on forced leave.
“People were encouraged to take leave when the university management realised many employees had not taken their leave days. The university could not afford to pay those days because of lack of funds,” he said.
Nearly half of the students at NUL were writing the supplementary examinations.
A NUL management official said although it is true that lack of money was the reason for the chaotic examinations the lecturers had also contributed to the mess because they delayed submitting the results for the initial examinations.
“Those results came in drips and drabs and the senate delayed ratifying them,” he said.
“In fact the university senate had to postpone its meetings three times because some results had not been submitted.”
He said the preparation for the supplementary tests could not start until all the results had been released.
NUL is currently facing a serious financial crisis that insiders say is a result of years of poor management and lack of accountability that has been ailing the university for the past 20 years.
Siverts recently confirmed that the institution was sitting on a M5 million budget deficit for the last financial year.
This paper also understands that the university is expecting a M50 million deficit for the 2011/12 financial year.
Efforts are now underway to find new sources of funding to boost the university’s coffers.
But insiders warn that this will not be easy because NUL’s record of financial mismanagement would put-off potential sponsors and donors.
Equally problematic, observers note, is the fact that staff salaries and emoluments are currently gobbling up 86 percent of the university’s annual grant from the government.
To cut costs, Siverts explained, the university has had to freeze positions for professors and associate professors.
The university is also going through a restructuring exercise to trim costs and review its degree programmes.

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