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Herculean task awaits

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A FEW weeks from now our troubled National University of Lesotho (NUL) will have a new vice chancellor.

Professor Sharon Siverts, an American academic who once led the University of Botswana, is being touted as the favourite for the hot seat even though she was the second best during the interviews.

Professor Jill Slay of Australia, who was the top candidate according to the interview results, might still get the job if her conditions are fulfilled.

Former NUL acting vice chancellor Mafa Sejanamane, who came third, has an outside chance of landing the job.

Yet, in the end, whoever becomes the NUL vice chancellor will have their job well cut out.

NUL is in a mess and requires a vice chancellor who can hit the ground running.

There will be no grace period.

An immediate crisis waits.

When he or she assumes office, the incumbent will find a university that has been closed for months because lecturers and researchers are on strike.

The strike is emblematic of a system that has been poisoned by years of bickering between stakeholders.

The university has been turned into a battlefield, a ring in which teachers, management, council and students can wrestle without a referee.

In all this chaos learning and research, the core purpose of the university, have suffered.

The learning environment has been poisoned.

NUL urgently needs a unifying personality who can heal the wounds of years of fighting.

The university needs to go back to its core business of teaching and research.

The students need to start learning again, the lecturers have to teach and the management has to manage.

NUL is broke.

Its financial books are in disarray and the accounts have been qualified for the past six years.

The government, the chief benefactor of the university, has been forced to cut funding because it too has its own financial challenges.

Whoever becomes the vice chancellor must urgently look for alternative funds to sustain the institute.

Yet that can only be possible if the whole management realises that it is important to adhere to the corporate governance and financial standards that have become the norm the world over.

For years these basic things have been scarce in NUL’s management corridors.

The management must also learn that if you don’t want to get broke you must never spend beyond your means.

To attract donors and strategic partners, NUL must show that it can account for the money it receives and use it wisely.

For years the college’s basic infrastructure has been neglected.

As the number of students increased, facilities such as lecture rooms, the library, the computer laboratory and the hostels have been strained to breaking point.

It’s either the university increases its capacity by improving the infrastructure or it cuts enrolment numbers to balance the equation.

NUL’s curriculum needs fixing.

We need more doctors, engineers, scientists and nurses.

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