AUTHORITIES at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) had to indefinitely shut down the country’s premier learning institution on Friday due to massive violent student protests at the main campus in Roma. Only foreign and disabled students have been allowed to remain on campus until the lifting of the shutdown and the resumption of classes.
The violent strikes broke out on Wednesday as students protested the delays in the payment of their food and book allowances by the National Development Secretariat (NMDS).
Armed police had to be called to disperse the marauding students who vandalised NUL and staff personal property and set ablaze one of the security officers’ houses during the strike which has been declared unlawful by the NUL senate.
The closure of the university and suspension of classes was communicated in a circular issued to NUL staff and students by the NUL senate on Friday.
“Staff and students of the National University of Lesotho are hereby notified that at its 344th meeting held on Thursday 29 August 2019, the senate executive considered the current situation of unrest and noted that students have been on an illegal strike from Wednesday 28 August 2019 without giving any notice to the university of their intention or reason for rioting,” part of the senate circular states.
“NUL Management established from the Student Representative Council (SRC) that students were protesting the delayed payment of allowances from the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS). Even though NMDS had already started paying allowances into student accounts in tranches on the same day (Wednesday) and the students continued to do so (demonstrate). Students have continued with riots even up to today (Friday) although many students have already received their allowances.
“The continuing riots have resulted in the significant destruction of the university property, staff personal property and the harassment of NUL community and the public.”
According to the senate, the university management was left with no choice but to indefinitely shut down the university and suspend lectures after attempts to get students to end the strike failed.
“On Thursday 29 August 2019, the senate executive assessed the situation and directed that students should stop their rioting and return to class but they refused. Therefore, the university is left with no option but to suspend lectures with immediate effect until further notice.
“All students admitted to the Roma campus, with the exception of international students and students with disabilities, are directed to leave the university premises forthwith. The cut-off point to be out of the campus is 3pm (on Friday). Staff, NUL community and the public are advised to take precautionary measures on their safety and security. Staff should continue with their normal work activities. As a matter of urgency, the registrar will communicate this decision to sponsors. Notice on the resumption of lectures will be communicated,” the senate said.