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Lutaru and restructuring at NUL

THE Sunday Express editorial of October 16 – 22, 2011 alleged that Lutaru is against change at the NUL.
We strongly refute these allegations and provide proof to the contrary below.
Lutaru was formed in 1993 to represent teachers, researchers and library professionals.
From its inception Lutaru has pushed a change agenda for transformation and restructuring of academic and support services at NUL.
In the period 1994 to 1996 Lutaru engaged in negotiations to improve the welfare and working conditions of staff through an effective and efficient fiscal and human resources management policy and strategy.
To this effect, the union proposed a policy for separation of academic cadres.
This initiative sought to separate administrative support staff from the core academic staff of teachers, researchers and library professions.
The reason for this was that there is no fairness and cost effectiveness in having a similar salary structure for two cadres who:
(a) enter it holding different academic qualifications,
(b) perform different duties and
(c) access similar salaries via different promotion criteria.
Our proposals were rejected because previous administrations had a vested interest in treating administrators as academics.
In the period 1994 to 2002, the union sought to influence the strategic direction of the university by sponsoring several initiatives through the university structures for overall change in the strategic management of the university.
This initiative culminated in the transformation strategic plan of 2002/2007.
The position of Lutaru was inspired by several studies recommending strategic redirection at NUL — the World Bank Report (1984), Sims Report (1990), the Commonwealth Higher Education Management Service (1994/5) and the Ernst and Young Management Audit (2000).
These reports unanimously agreed that there were structural crises which hindered efficient and effective discharge of the university’s mission.
At the root of the crises were a complacent and cumbersome managerial and organisational system ill-suited to respond effectively and timeously to change imperatives; poor planning; inefficient utilisation of resources and low cost-consciousness; stunted growth in student enrolment contrasting sharply with the surge in the demand for higher
education.
Lutaru was a lone voice of change in support of these reports when the vice-chancellors, councils and indeed the government were
complacent.
Several times during the periods referred to above the union and individual members of the union approached government ministers, particularly ministers of education, to request their intervention to arrest bad governance and financial mismanagement at NUL.
Despite the fact that NUL Act gave ministers such powers, none of the ministers of education and finance moved to demand, and secure, good governance at NUL.
All this is proof, if any were needed, that identification of NUL’s problems had long been done before Professor Siverts arrived here.
Professor Siverts is being given undue credit for the prognosis of the NUL’s problems. Some of that credit must go to Lutaru and others who participated in the drawing up of the NUL Strategic Plan 2002/07 which first proposed the re-organisation of faculties, institutes, departments and units of the university, as well as its administrative and support structures, with a view to ensuring effectiveness and a clearly defined hierarchical management system in the academic
arena.
The said plan was approved by council along with the Management Plan at the end of September 2002.
This benchmark document marked the first and most radical effort for change at the NUL, and was fully supported and endorsed by Lutaru.
Prof Richard Mawditt, UNESCO Chair in Higher Education Management (December 2004) offered an external review of the plan and had this to say about it: “May I say at the outset that I found the NUL Strategic Plan an extremely clear and well-structured document and refreshing in its candid and honest reporting of the weaknesses and deficiencies recognised by the task team and those interviewed and contributing to the inquiries.
It is never easy to be self-critical or open about one’s own deficiencies, and I compliment the university in facing up to those issues and concerns which are recommended for change and significant restructuring in the short, medium and longer terms.
The Strategic Plan is a major document that the council of the university and its major stakeholders, especially the Ministry of Education and Training, can use to good effect in the years to come. Its value will hopefully bring tangible and urgent impact on the future of NUL, the Lesotho nation and its community”.
The question why a plan so highly-praised by experts was never implemented is a subject for another day.
Suffice it to say the union cannot be blamed for the failure to implement the plan.
The point here is that these radical ideas for change originated in Lutaru and were implemented with full support of the union.
The third aspect of the plan, proposed a radical restructuring of the NUL bursary following a forensic audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers that resulted in the suspension of senior financial officers of the university.
Unfortunately, the council of the university had no guts to implement the recommendations of the auditors, while its principal, the government of Lesotho, lacked the political will to intervene to enforce compliance with the financial regulations of the university when it had recently amended the NUL order to allow it to intervene in the strategic guidance of
university governance.
When the Minister of Education and Training did intervene, it was to suspend the very strategic process that exposed the mismanagement of the university assets.
Prominent member(s) of the current management of the university, who are now signatory to declarations casting ingenuous aspersions on Lutaru as an anti-restructuring union, happily presided over the dismantling of the transformation initiatives and recommended pardon to those who had misappropriated university funds and assets for their personal gain.
The vice-chancellor and those who regard her as Mrs Know-All would like the nation to believe that she is bringing a new disciplinary order at NUL where legal frameworks are so poor they are tantamount to a legislative joke.
Clearly the vice-chancellor and her team have not heard of the “The Staff Handbook of Personnel Regulations and Policies and Code of Conduct” cited as the National University of Lesotho Service Conditions and Personnel Regulations of August 25th 2003.
This code of conduct, fully supported and endorsed by Lutaru in 2003, was part of the milestones of the Strategic Plan 2002/07 in which regulations were revised in response to an analysis of the university laws and regulations.
Interestingly, in her rush to catch the early worm of public misinformation, Professor Siverts neither took time to acquaint herself with the existing efforts of her predecessors nor sought advisement of those who patriotically weathered the storms at the NUL in the hardy moon.
We are recalling these historic developments because the roots of the future are deep in the past and we should not allow the public to be misled into believing that a newcomer vice-chancellor, hardly a few months on the job, is bringing the likes of a divine-inspired wisdom of Solomon, nor should we allow her to parade as a Messianic character bringing salvation to a stone-age university and its archaic management models.
Basotho should also know that our vice-chancellor is reported to be earning M1.2 million, while our Pro vice-chancellor reportedly earns M900 000 per year.
Her proposed managerial structure is going to create two more pro-vice-chancellors and a number of directors.
They will be earning similar salaries.
We are accused of being opposed to restructuring when we oppose the creation of this fat cat culture at the NUL.
In conclusion, we call upon the vice-chancellor to seriously and genuinely engage Lutaru in her press reported efforts to make the NUL “a place of intellectual rigor with a focus on teaching and learning and research”.
We assure her that she has a strong partner here. We also assure her that she will not be disappointed because that is what Lutaru stands for.
Dr. C G Thamae
Publicity Secretary

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