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New NUL Law was long overdue

The dramatic walkout by opposition MPs last week over the National University of Lesotho (Amendment) Bill should be seen as a counter-productive attempt by elements bent on scuttling a progressive piece of legislation.

The MPs walked out ostensibly because they had not been informed in time by the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party that the Bill was to be brought to the House on Tuesday.

We are satisfied that despite the walkout parliament still went ahead and passed the Bill.

This was the right thing to do.

The opposition’s concerns seem to centre on the charge that the proposed law seeks to “give the employer excessive power over the employee”.

However, we believe the serious administrative challenges facing the university equally require a serious set of rules and regulations to whip errant lecturers and non-academic staff into line.

Anything short of this extreme measure will mean NUL remains in a state of paralysis.

We believe the cavalier attitude that we have come to associate with NUL must be brought to an end if the university is to play its role in Lesotho’s economic development.

Any half-hearted attempts to correct the current mess will result in the same failed policies that have for too long held back progress at the university.

It is precisely for these reasons that we think parliament was right to push this amendment despite the grumblings of a few opposition MPs.

We believe the Bill gives Vice-Chancellor Sharon Siverts and her administration the necessary powers to discipline errant staff and take the university forward.

But we are confident that the administration is mature enough to see the bigger picture and refrain from petty vindictiveness to punish those seen as outspoken.

The new law must not be used to stifle academic freedom.

It is these dissenting voices that Siverts must win over.

She must reassure these that she has no interest in pursuing a vindictive agenda.

The passage of the new law must also serve as a warning to the forces that have been holding back progress at NUL.

They must realise that the new dispensation is like an unstoppable train. They must move out of the way or risk being crushed in its tracks.

We believe the Bill will instill of professionalism in the running of the university.

It is a matter of record that NUL had become a lawless jungle where lecturers were free to engage in their own private pursuits at the expense of their teaching and research assignments.

Very little teaching was going on in some departments.

The biggest problem was lack of discipline.

Surely things had to change.

The amendment Bill will ensure that management has the power to enforce a strict disciplinary regime.

We cannot understand how this progressive piece of legislation can in any way be perceived as “anti-worker”.

To put it bluntly the new law is meant to deal with those who are lazy whom we believe have no business being at a premier university like NUL.

It is precisely for these reasons that we would like to welcome the decision to pass the NUL (Amendment) Bill 2011. The new law is what the ailing university needs if we are to rescue it from its current messy state.

The mission to restore NUL to its former glory will only be fulfilled when everyone pull in the same direction and when we realise that the interests of the individual must make way for those of the nation for the greater good.

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