Rapapa fires back

Rapapa fires back

Denounces suspension of academic activities at NUL…..

MASERU – EDUCATION Minister Professor Ntoi Rapapa says he is shocked by National University of Lesotho (NUL)’s decision to cancel examinations and suspend classes.
The NUL Senate said it had been pushed to make the drastic decision because the university is broke after the government cut the subvention by M10 million.

But Rapapa told thepost yesterday that he doesn’t buy that explanation and government maintains that examinations should go ahead and classes must resume.
Rapapa said the decision was “unfortunate, ill-conceived and unwarranted”.
He said he is concerned that the decision was made without consulting him.

“You can imagine that I only heard of the news through the media,” Rapapa said.
“And when I asked the vice-chancellor and the chairman of council (Tseko Bohloa) I was told that they were going to inform the students and staff first before informing me. I am saying things don’t work that way.”

He said in that meeting he asked the vice-chancellor and council chairman to immediately reopen the university but he was told that the NUL is an autonomous institution.

“They said once a decision has been made it is the council that will order its reversal. I have since ordered them to convene a council immediately so they can reverse that decision.” thepost has been told the council will meet tomorrow.

The minister said while he understood that the university has serious financial problems he does not think the solution is to stop examinations and classes. “This is more so because that is a very big decision that has implications for the students and the rest of the country. There is need to consider all stakeholders before taking such drastic decisions. You have to consider the students.”

He said the council chairperson had agreed during the meeting on Monday that the government should have been informed before the decision.
The minister also said it was not true that the university does not have the money to operate because the government has just released M24.8 million of the M99 million subvention.

“I am saying the idea that the university remains open but classes are suspended and examinations are cancelled does not sit well with me. It makes no sense to say the students and staff are at the university but they cannot do precisely what they are there to do.”
In an earlier interview the NUL Vice-Chancellor Prof Nqosa Mahao had said the M24.8 million the minister was talking about was only enough to pay salaries for a month. Mahao said while the university is able to pay June salaries the crunch will be in July.

But Rapapa said this is a flawed analysis because the university does not rely on the subvention alone.
“I am saying the university has tuition and other funding sources like the rent from the Sefika complex. The subvention is therefore just but one of the funding sources. It’s not even the biggest.”

“The point is that you cannot justify closing a university because of a subvention because it is not the only source of funding and it is not even the biggest.”
“You have to look at the M24.8 million in a holistic way for you to understand things.”
He said even if it was to be assumed that the M24.8 million was the only amount available in the bank account it still does not justify cancelling examinations and suspending classes.
Regarding the meetings the NUL management says it had requested on several occasions, the minister said he has always been available for discussions.

He said after parliament approved the NUL budget allocation he met Mahao and heads of other tertiary institutions to discuss the subvention.
“We also met in the parliamentary cluster committee where we discussed the challenges with the subvention.”
Rapapa says the ministry and government have never been under any illusion that the subvention to tertiary institutions is adequate.

The government, he said, is aware that it should do more for the institutions, especially the NUL as the only national university.
“We are looking at the funding model so see how they can be assisted from the government’s resources, tuition or help from development partners.”
“Perhaps the developmental partners will assist with funding infrastructure, research and teaching so that the government might focus on the running costs alone.”

“We remain committed to assisting all institutions of higher learning to get enough funding to function optimally. We know that the current funding is not enough but we are trying our best and we are in consultation with stakeholders to find a lasting solution to the problems.”
He said he told parliament that cuts in the education ministry’s budget will affect subventions and other expenditures.
“We have discussed how the cuts on the subvention will affect the institutions. The government has no intention of compromising the quality of education.”

The minister however said institutions like NUL should also play their part by producing audited accounts on time to improve accountability and transparency. “These are issues of governance that must be addressed because every time you seek help from development partners they will ask you about audited accounts and strategic plans.” “But even when we are aware of these challenges in producing audited accounts we have continued to assist the institutions. We know they need to be assisted.”

Staff Reporter

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