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Embrace reforms or sink into irrelevance

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ONCE again the National University of Lesotho (NUL) is in turmoil.
This time it’s not students but employees who have forced the university to shut down.
Lecturers and researchers are demanding a 15 percent salary increase.
This is an addition to the seven percent increase they got last December after another strike that brought the university to a standstill.
Last week non-academic staff joined the strike, demanding an immediate stop to the restructuring exercise that started in June.
Professor Mafa Sejanamane, the pro vice-chancellor responsible for academic affairs, says the strikes are an effort to sabotage the restructuring process that is meant to rationalise costs and revamp the university’s operations.
We would like to agree with him.
NUL’s history is replete with incidents in which workers have fought tooth and nail to block progressive change.
Previous vice-chancellors who have tried to turn around the university’s fortunes have been hounded out of office.
The workers have thrown spanners into every plan to bring sanity to the college.
The result is that NUL has been sinking into trouble for the past 20 years.
Its finances are in disarray because the management has been spending money it doesn’t have.
Academic standards have also plummeted, taking with them the university’s reputation as one of the best universities in southern Africa.
Delinquent lecturers have been allowed to disregard authority with impunity because the statutes make it difficult for the university to discipline them.
Research output has been reduced to a trickle.
The curriculum is still stuck in the 1970s.
In short, NUL has been digging its own grave for a very long time.
But now the chickens are coming home to roost.
The government is now demanding more accountability and transparency because it cannot afford to keep pumping money into the “bottomless” pit that the university has become.
Its vigilance could be due, in part, to the fact that it too is in a serious financial crisis.
There is therefore no doubt that the restructuring programme that NUL has started is necessary.
We perfectly understand that change is not easy.
It causes anxiety, tension and even acrimony.
The natural reaction to change is to reject it.
But that should not be.
The employees at NUL must embrace this change for the greater good.
No one, absolutely no one, at NUL is bigger than NUL.
NUL is a national university funded by taxpayers.
The people are the shareholders of this university.
It is therefore not right for the workers to block the restructuring exercise because they are afraid they will lose their jobs and other benefits.
In any case, no one has even said they are going to lose their jobs.
They must let go of their fears and start contributing to the process of making NUL a better institution.
The management has made it clear that it genuinely wants this restructuring process to be inclusive.
This is an opportunity NUL employees should grab with both hands.
It is a chance for them to shape the outcome of the process.
By being belligerent the employees are squandering that opportunity.
Yet no matter how far and how long they try to frustrate this process, the reality is that it will still happen.
It has to happen and it will happen.
It might be delayed but it will surely happen for it is the only option NUL has if it wants to survive.

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