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NUL reels from Covid-19 deaths

. . . four senior lecturers die in just two weeks

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

THE National University of Lesotho (NUL) has been plunged into mourning after four senior lecturers and an unnamed number of support staff and students died from Covid-19 related complications in the past two weeks.

The first Covid-19 case in the country was detected on 13 May 2020 and since that time, infections have exponentially risen with the National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC) putting the toll at a cumulative 7656 infections and 123 deaths as of yesterday.

NUL has not been spared amid revelations that four of its lecturers had succumbed to the scourge in the past two weeks.

A statement issued by the university management merely speaks of staff members and students who have recently died of Covid-19 without mentioning their names.

“NUL can never have enough words of condolences to the families, colleagues and friends of staff members and students who have succumbed to the Covid-19 pandemic as well as those who are infected and recovering,” part of the university management’s statement reads.

“On the morning of Sunday 18 January 2021, NUL received news of the loss of an employee and some indications that many staff members, students and their close relatives have been admitted in hospitals or are self-isolating in their homes. Those who recovered from the pandemic give us a ray of hope for life.”

Although the NUL statement does not identify those who have died, the Sunday Express has since established from authoritative NUL sources, the identity of four lecturers who succumbed to the deadly virus within the space of two weeks.

On Wednesday, the NUL community woke up to news of the death of Reverend Dr Gabriel Tlaba, a senior lecturer in the Department of Philosophy.

His death came just three days after the death of Dr Lehlohonolo Phafoli, a senior lecturer in the Department of African Languages who is also said to have succumbed to Covid-19.

Two weeks before, NUL had also lost political science lecturer, Dr Moletsane Monyake and philosophy lecturer, Dr Tarisayi Andia Chimuka.

Dr Monyake was buried last week at his rural home in Mafeteng.

Details about Dr Chimuka’s burial, a Zimbabwean national, are still unclear as NUL has not been forthcoming with information. Several telephone calls to the NUL registrar’s office and the information department went unanswered yesterday.

Tributes have been pouring in for Dr Phafoli with some of his colleagues, past and present students describing him as more than just a teacher but father figure as well.

A former NUL lecturer, Henry Mensah, said Dr Phafoli will be remembered for his elegant dress sense, humour, friendliness and pride in his language.

“He (Phafoli) always dressed to kill. He had a great sense of humour. He was frank and sincere to the core. He loved his Sesotho language and spoke it with finesse,” said Mr Mensah.

 

One of his former students, Limpho Ralephoi, said, “Ntate Phafoli was a father to all at school.  He taught us manners, morality, humanity and respect for all people despite their backgrounds. Our hearts are broken. Deep inside we know he did his job wholeheartedly. He will be forever remembered”.

Some students praised the late Dr Phafoli for his humility, saying he knew all his students by name, a quality they said most lecturers did not possess.

One of them recalled an incident where,  upon realising that one student was absent from one of his lectures, Dr Phafoli walked to the nearby drinking bar, located the errant student and escorted him back to the lecture hall.

“He saw his students as his children and treated those who strayed in a gentle way. He was always clean and smart. His death is a great loss to NUL and the department of African Languages,” said another ex-student.

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