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Get to the bottom of ‘carnage’ at NUL

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THE National University of Lesotho (NUL) is once more reeling following the release of examinations results that Pro Vice-Chancellor Mafa Sejanamane has described as the worst since he began his teaching career some three decades ago.
The “devastating” results come following what has been a traumatic year for the university that has been plagued by demonstrations by lecturers over pay and working conditions.

The institution has also been going through lean times following a painful “restructuring” process that had to be abandoned mid-stream after protests. Some departments at the university have also lost key teaching staff. At least 26 PhD degree holders quit the university between July 2011 and August last year. Two professors and three associate professors also resigned during the same period.

The university is apparently beginning to feel the results of such haemorrhage. Amid this brouhaha it is important that authorities at NUL allow unimpeded debate to establish the cause of the current crisis. Such debate must however remain civil if it is to be constructive. Hurling insults at Vice-Chancellor Sharon Siverts will only serve to vitiate debate towards a wrong course.

The university must carry out an honest post-mortem to establish the real cause of the “carnage”. Once the reasons are established it must put in place immediate mechanisms to ensure it does not have to undergo a similar traumatic experience at the end of the next semester. We are not surprised that some of the worst results were recorded for students in the first year.

We do not claim to know the cause. However, we would like to raise a few questions about the readiness of our Cambridge Overseas School Certificate graduates to undergo higher education. We remain unconvinced about the readiness of these students. Some of these are mere 17-year-olds who appear completely unprepared for the rigours of university education.
When they find themselves thrust into the system, with all the attendant freedoms that university education brings, the results can be devastating.

A two-year course, such as an Advanced Level programme, could perhaps help prepare these students for the challenges that lie ahead. Such a programme can provide a “safe-landing” spot for first years. The high failure rate in first year could clearly indicate that these students are finding it difficult to cope with the demands expected of them. The shocking failure rate should be seen as a desperate cry for help. The university must respond and provide a softer landing platform for these kids. University education is never meant to be a traumatic experience for anyone.

The results also show that students still need a lot of mentoring. They need somebody to literally hold their hand as they try to discover who they are. But when everything has been said and done, students must realise that it is their sponsibility to ensure they meet the grade. They should never expect to be spoon fed or look for scapegoats when they fail. The responsibility to do well lies on their shoulders.

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