THE National University of Lesotho’s (NUL) unstable and insecure financial situation due to its high dependence on government subvention can retard the institution’s ambitious plans.
This was said by His Majesty King Letsie III at the third annual meeting of the 13th council of the NUL recent annual general meeting (AGM) held at the university recently.
The council which was inaugurated two years ago and is set to serve for another one year.
His Majesty King Letsie III said the commendable advances that the NUL has made towards meeting the targets set out in its 2015-20 strategic plan, there are still some challenges which threaten the developments. He said the challenges need to be addressed with urgency and determination.
Among the problems, His Majesty King Letsie III also noted the decrease in the number of students who qualify to pursue mathematics and science and programmes at and college level thereby hampering the country’s progress in the critical areas.
“The unstable and insecure financial situation of the NUL due to its high dependency on government subvention has remained a matter of great consternation for years,” His Majesty King Letsie III said.
“If not dealt with promptly, this can retard the ambitious plans of the university.”
His Majesty King Letsie III implored the government and development partners to sympathise with the institution and also urged the university to be more innovative.
“Adequate financial resources are required for lecturers and students to do the necessary tests, experiments and research in the laboratories in order for their ideas to become viable business concepts that can be developed.
“We are mindful of the rather dire economic situation our country faces, coupled with the competing demands for resources from different sectors; however, we hope that the pleas for adequate funding for the university will be met with a sympathetic ear by the government and also our development partners.
At the same time, I would like to add that it is imperative for the university and all institutions of higher learning to search for alternative sources of revenue in order to reduce the high dependence on government subventions,” he said.
His Majesty King Letsie III said in the two-year-old tenure of the council, several new programmes were developed and presented to it on higher education for accreditation. Of these, over 30 have been offered probationary accreditation status until 2023 while two programmes have received full accreditation.
“We applaud this important achievement and take pride in the fact that our university is modernising its programmes in response t the needs of the society.
“The establishment of the NUL Water Institute (NULWI) for which recruitment purposes for lecturers is underway in readiness for the approval and accreditation of programmes, is another groundbreaking project to boast about. I have been reliably informed that plans are afoot to start offering programmes under the water institute in the second half of 2019.
“The progress registered towards the establishment of the school of engineering is a positive development that has great potential to develop our human capital in those critical areas that will ensure that Lesotho achieves her aspirations for accelerated economic development. Importantly, the approval by the government to provide funding for the implementation of this significant project provide a much-needed stimulus towards bringing to fruition this important project.
“We are all aware that in addition to a plethora of related benefits, such a school would cut costs of training engineers for Lesotho by more than half,” His Majesty King Letsie III said.
He also hailed the launch of the institution’s innovation hub in November 2018, a concept which he said could address the plight of unemployed youths and stimulate the stagnant economy.
For his part, chairperson of the NUL council Tseko Bohloa said the meeting was in fulfilment of the requirements of the governing instruments of NUL.
He said the council was obliged by these same instruments to give an account on matters which they worked on during the period under review and to present an outlook for the year ahead.
“As the end of term of office for the 13th Council approaches, it is appropriate to look back at the journey that has been travelled and apart from being punctuated by the challenges which arose from the inadequacy of resources, has been marked by conditions of stability that permitted leaning to proceed without major interruptions,” Mr Bohloa said
He said the council considers it appropriate to applaud the efforts of the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nqosa Mahao and his management team for providing the correct leadership and upholding healthy relations between itself and other key players within the realm of human capital development.
The Deputy Minister of Education and Training, Mothepu Mahapa, said the occasion afforded the government a vital opportunity to highlight policy issues that are in line with the core mandate of the NUL, particularly the government’s strategic direction on the troika of the university’s responsibility on teaching and learning, research and community engagement.
“My ministry aims to work even better with the university for example’ in the proposed Secondary School Curriculum Dissemination Strategy. NUL as a teacher training institution is expected to devote time providing training for teachers on the new curriculum as part of teacher professional development,” Mr Mahapa said.