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Academic leadership, curriculum and pedagogy

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In my article: ‘Quality Assurance in higher education: whose quality’ I introduced concepts such as: ‘massification’ and ‘de-elitism’ in our higher education, resulting from increased university education access. Increasing access to higher education came at a high cost. The Council on Higher Education (CHE) and the Education Statistics show that although large volumes of students were admitted into institutions, many stayed ‘hidden’ in the system longer than expected.

Students failed and either repeated levels, migrated into new programmes, or even moved to other institutions, or dropped out, altogether. Students congested the system. University and other institutions had to find solutions to this awkward predicament. Massification and de-elitism came at considerable costs to the country and the higher education system.
A significant reason for these students’ predicament is that this generation was ill-prepared for higher education studies. The new students did not possess the requisite skills to cope with higher education demands. The proponents blamed students’ deficiencies squarely on their schooling.

The higher education system could not address problems at the school level. School education was not in their jurisdiction. However, these students are at higher education doorsteps. Institutions needed to devise interventions that would enable them to deal with this predicament. This saw the birth of academic programmes (AD) such as Lesotho Science Pre-Entry Course in the later 1970s and early ‘80s, followed by the Pre-Entry Science Programme at the National University of Lesotho (NUL).

The AD confirmed a gap between the students who enrolled in higher education institutions and their professors. This divide meant that something must give. It was up to institutions to be innovative and design endeavours that would bridge this divide rather than point fingers. The AD programme has metamorphosed into numerous programmes.

The current Covid-19 pandemic urged higher education institutions to become creative in their teaching and learning projects. I have shared a brief account of AD in higher education. This article proposes a programme for providing quality higher education system through a centre for higher education development like the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) at NUL. The article describes how a CTL can drive university education’s core business.

This article is desktop research. My contribution is purely academic.
CTL is an intervention endeavour facilitating university teaching and learning using cutting edge resources. It is a recommendation of a study carried by the Commonwealth Secretariat. CTL decrees to provide numerous teaching and learning development services to faculties. They include continuing professional development, emerging technologies in information and communication technology (ICT) to enhance quality teaching and learning and assist students’ with learning.

A challenge remains for developing countries where academics entering higher education teaching do not need to hold teaching qualifications. None of the higher education institutions that teach education, namely, the Lesotho College of Education (LCE) or NUL, offer higher education curriculum studies. The two provide school teachers’ qualifications.
CTL provides curriculum and pedagogic development support to academics. It is not clear, whether or not, participation in these staff development workshops is mandatory. Yet, academics who teach in higher education are teachers.

CHE describes academics’ quality in terms of disciplines’ qualifications. CHE mandates that academics must be one National Qualification Framework level above the programme they teach. CHE is entirely silent about the teacher qualification requirement.

Often the academics teaching experience, in terms of the accumulative years, may be queried. Academics only need to demonstrate their discipline proficiencies and not their teaching competencies. This promotes the stereotype that in higher education teaching, teaching ability is insignificant.
According to CHE, most lecturers in colleges and private universities hold undergraduate degrees. However, this practice may not be a train-smash, noting that these institutions offer mostly diploma qualifications. But diploma qualifications provide access to university education. Diplomas give a foundation to degree and advanced diplomas. Therefore, the best-qualified lecturers must teach at diploma level.

There is a difference in loyalties between being teachers and discipline specialists. Academics argue that their subject knowledge takes precedence over teaching. The apprehension that academics display against being teachers is sheer denialism. Often, the stereotype that they may have against education and teaching cause this denial. But classroom teaching is about imparting knowledge, and that is teaching.

CTL innovation is profound to NUL. It acknowledges the role of teaching in higher education. CTL is fundamental to higher education. The core business of a university is teaching and learning, community outreach, and research. Also, Bernstein’s EPD is the best tool that we can use to emancipate our higher education system by putting a Mosotho student at the centre of the higher education project.

I presented Bernstein’s EPD in an earlier article, ‘A Mosothocentric Curriculum’ to explain how Basotho academics may take full control of the knowledge they teach in their institutions. EPD describes an arena of struggle for what different actors view as valued knowledge in higher education.
Applying Bernstein’s EPD, CTLs are central to the university core business. CTLs must be a driver of higher education. Their role is to integrate the core business of an institution. For a CTL to fully achieve this role, an institution must make a systematic, concerted, and coordinated move.

CTLs must lead institutional processes of drawing mission and vision statements and core values. In so doing, they must put a Mosotho student at the centre. Institutions must describe attributes that their curriculum experiences will foster in their graduates. Curriculum experiences include the language of teaching, learning and assessment, textbooks, libraries, teaching and learning environments, students’ and support mechanism.
Some pundits and scholars drive the myth that knowledge is universal. The concept of ‘university’ derives from this myth of ‘universality of knowledge.’ In this myth, universities impart universal knowledge. But the question is, who is this knowledge universal to? Why are African students alienated from this ‘universal knowledge’? I differ with these proponents.

I argue that knowledge is contextual. It depends on the context in which it is created, decontextualised and imparted. Therefore, our academics must decide, on the knowledge they privilege for Basotho students.
Academics entering higher education teaching in Lesotho, do not need to hold teaching qualifications. Only those that teach education programmes must have education qualification. Even these, they do not have higher education studies qualification. None of the institutions that offer education teach higher education curriculum studies. The two higher education institutions that provide teacher educations are Lesotho College of Education (LCE) or NUL. They teach school education.

According to Bernstein EPD, academics in higher education must choose the knowledge they seek to privilege and decontextualise and present to students in their classrooms. While most academics would possess their discipline competencies their programmes require, many lack the requisite competencies and skills to decontextualise this knowledge into the curriculum and present it as curriculum experiences.

A scholar, Lee Shulman, introduced the concept, ‘pedagogic-content knowledge’ in the 1980s. This is the combination of content and teaching knowledge in the classroom. According to Shulman, students need a teacher who is more than knowledgeable about their subject. But they also need one who can teach their specific subjects clearly and effectively. This is true for higher education teaching and learning, as well.

This shows that while it is essential to possess discipline knowledge, it is equally crucial that academics all have pedagogic skills, curriculum studies and development knowledge. While I do not expect academics to be experts in all the three EPD fields, academics in departments must handle some EPD aspects. This is important because the three fields inform each other. Thus academics may possess both discipline and pedagogic knowledge.

Academics must create knowledge, decontextualise it into the curriculum, and impart it to students. Academics must not outsource their responsibilities to others. Often, the ‘other’ here are the dominant actors characterised by the language of instruction and assessment and textbooks.
CTLs must actively coordinate institutional academic activities. For instance, at NUL, CTL must lead an institutional collaborative initiative that would unearth and understand Basotho traditions, culture and values. The Faculty of Social Sciences and King Moshoeshoe I Institute of Leadership would provide their anthropological and social sciences know-how to this end.

In close collaboration with the Faculty of Education, CTL with institutional community and stakeholders must infuse Basotho culture, and values into the institutional mission, vision and value. They must together paint a portrait of an institutional graduate they envision. This portrait must describe attributes that this graduate will display. Lastly, CTL and departments must entrench institutional mission, vision statements, values, and graduate attributes into the curriculum they want their students to experience.

Institutions must desist from importing foreign curriculum. Knowledge is not universal. CTLs must work very closely with researchers in faculties, departments, disciplines, and regions to incorporate their discipline research into the curriculum. In short, we must teach our knowledge, ensuring that our graduates survive any work environment.
Institutions would need human resources to effect this vision, at both faculty and departments’ levels and CTL. Therefore, institutions must empower a critical mass of new actors to engage with the knowledge in this arena of social justice struggles. The actors, in this case, are the academics.

CTL list their mandatory activities. These include a series of workshops that the unit proposes for all teaching staff at the institutions. These workshops are not adequate. They would not enable CTL to transform higher education in Lesotho radically. It is short of helping Basotho higher education practitioners to become powerful actors in knowledge creation, recontextualisation, teaching and learning, as explained by Bernstein’s EPD.
CTL offers a series of workshops to academics on curriculum design, development and pedagogy.

These workshops may fall short for preparing academics to grasp the pedagogic knowledge they require to teach thoroughly. Although academics may participate in these workshops, they are voluntary, and may not be deep enough to make the academics they are designed to become fully capacitated. They do not demonstrate a concerted effort to achieve good learning. In other words, although the academics demonstrate full mastery of the content they teach, we may not be so definitive with the curriculum, pedagogy and assessment competencies.

CTLs must forge close collaborations with Faculty of Education, institutionally, nationally and externally, and units that provide similar services, elsewhere. NUL’s CTL particularly must collaborate with other higher education institutions. They have more experience and better qualified academic staff.

To overcome the shortcoming of the lack of higher education curriculum studies knowledge, CTLs must build a research base in higher education studies. They must develop academic staff as professional higher education educators, professional curriculum ‘experts’. CTL already offer all of this, but they must formalise these through research degrees.

CTL, thorough the Faculty of Education and LCE, must introduce postgraduate studies degree, such as coursework and research Master of Curriculum Studies in Higher Education. Institutions that over teacher education focus solely on school education. Higher education in Lesotho will be a new avenue, in this respect.

Academic staff members who are first-degree holders only do not qualify for admission into masters degree programmes. They would be eligible for a consonant postgraduate diploma or honours degrees in curriculum studies in higher education.
LCE offers undergraduate certificates and diplomas. They must strongly consider offering degrees. This education undergraduate degree programme will form a base for a relevant postgraduate qualification later.
Offering masters and doctoral research would generate knowledge in higher education while at the same time, capacitating these academics with advanced research skills. These academics may engage in research in all EPD fields. The academics would choose research interest areas from a position of strength and not through fear and deficiency.

For a CTL to optimally function, it needs to be fully resourced. CTL says they have three (3) established lecturer positions and support staff. The different tasks this article suggests mean that CTLs must employ a significantly bigger staff complement. The academic staff members must hold masters or PhDs education qualifications (preferably PhDs). CTLs’ core staff complement must comprise:

  1. Lecturer: higher education curriculum studies;
  2. Lecturer: staff development – continuing professional development
  3. Lecturer: student learning and academic development;
  4. Lecturer: educational technology; and,
  5. Information and communication technology (ICT). ICT in education is also referred to as e-Learning. E-learning is a new area that institutions need to research ways to fully entrench them into our education systems.

When CTL is fully institutionalised, all the listed activities shall be units with more than one academics, depending on institutional needs, providing the teaching support to faculties.

In conclusion, CTLs are critical to higher education development. The massification of higher education brought a new type of student, thus, new challenges. The present Covid 19 pandemic diminished the role of contact teaching while magnifying our higher education system’s deficiencies. It revealed that it is not ‘business as usual.’ Even so, higher education must prevail and facilitate quality education to Basotho.
CTLs must integrate the core business of university focusing nature and characteristics of their product, the graduate. They must describe the graduate attributes in line with the missions and visions of their institutions.

CTLs must pave the way to professionalising higher education teaching. They must facilitate graduate studies in high education curriculum studies geared toward producing researchers and knowledge creation. All academics must have higher education teaching qualifications.
Academics must insource all curriculum activities in their institutions. Gone are the days of outsourcing knowledge creations, curriculum design and development.

Dr Tholang Maqutu

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Reforms: time to change hearts and minds

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A very important milestone is gradually being reached in Lesotho politics. On April 6, 2022, I attended a National Reforms Authority (NRA)’s High-level Forum on the State of the Implementation of the Lesotho National Reforms at ’Manthabiseng Convention Centre.

For the first time, I heard at that meeting politicians acknowledging that Lesotho’s political problems have a lot to do with politicians themselves, and not with written clauses of the Constitution.

This is a point that this country’s intellectuals and academics have made for years. Lesotho politicians have refused to listen both because of their dislike for the country’s academics and because of absence of any communication between the two groups as a result of that dislike.

If politicians could use their newly-acquired wisdom as a basis from which to proceed in attempts to solve Lesotho’s political problems, there is potential for great strides to be made, finally.

Political instability bedevils Lesotho because the hearts and minds of politicians continue to be inclined to break the law, or to look for ‘loopholes’, in pursuit of narrow interests; and continue to change clauses of the Constitution when such clauses do not allow the pursuit and achievement of narrow interests.

We need a change of heart and mind-set among our politicians in order to make headway in building a politically stable society. Politicians’ narrow interests should not be a basis for what needs to happen in Lesotho. The need for constitutional changes and the search for loopholes will persist but they should not be inspired by the pursuit of narrow interests, as has hitherto happened.

Instead, to us the public, it should become necessary to reform the constitution on two conditions only. First, when it is found that the constitution does not adequately address concerns with the socio-economic welfare of Basotho. Second, when it becomes necessary to ensure that Basotho exercise real power on who rules them and on how they are ruled. These conditions are cardinal.

And they should inform all thought and action in Lesotho’s politics.

As has happened many times already, even these costly ongoing reforms of clauses of the Constitution will be all for naught if concern for politicians’ own welfare continues to be a primary motive behind their pursuit for parliamentary seats, and what they do once in parliament.

It may well be that the current and next generation of politicians will be short of men and women with hearts and mind-set fit for service to Basotho’s welfare. But serious attempts need to be made to ensure the generation after the next has a critical mass of such politicians.

This cannot only be wished for. It has to be worked for. One thought is to introduce a curriculum that teaches people the capacity to think of others, and care for others. These are some of the attributes mostly missing among our politicians. Their incapacity to think of others leads to their lack of a sense of public duty that we see and experience every day.

We have neglected the task of socialising and educating empathetic hearts and mind-sets claiming that Africans and Basotho naturally and culturally subscribe to, and live in accordance with, ubuntu (humanity). It is quite obvious that this is not true. People who make this claim loudest are the middle classes who, while claiming to subscribe to ubuntu, live in houses surrounded by six feet high perimeter walls.

There may be other thoughts than socialisation on this. What we have to hope for is that from here onwards, in our search for solutions to Lesotho political problems, we will proceed from the recognition that, primarily, these problems emanate not from inappropriate written texts of the Constitution but from hearts and minds of men and women.

Motlatsi Thabane

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We have lost our moral indignation

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I remember when the allegations that Tšeliso Nthane had shot and killed one of his employees first came to the surface. It was in 2019, back when the air was not so poisonous and Basotho still had much of their hope. Well not much because this is generally a hopeless, desolate wasteland but some small pretence of hope still remained. The nation was angry, and rightfully so. The consensus was that men like Nthane, no matter how deep their pockets, should not be allowed to act with impunity. A man was dead and we were baying for justice.

A lot has happened since then. The Covid-19 pandemic, mass retrenchments and job losses, the ever dwindling power of the loti. This and that but all has been more negative than positive in this place so when the time came for Nthane to be handed judgment we had mostly stopped caring as we had to deal with the business of living .

Anyway the man was found not guilty. I will confess I did not read the judgement for fear it will sink me lower into the abyss that is life in Lesotho. However, news of that sort cannot escape one even if they try, more especially if they are on social media. No sooner had judgment been handed down that social media debates began raging.

Suddenly everyone was an expert in punitive versus remedial justices and the pros and cons therein. Many argued that once more the rich had been proven to be above the law. A statement clouded in naivety really because had they been paying attention they would have realised that there is nothing to prove as the rich have always been above the law.

Those who fancy themselves the harbingers of remedial justice argued that Nthane had made certain payments to the family and thus paid his debt. I have no personal knowledge of these payments but I was of course curious to know how much the price of a life is amongst these parts.

They further argued that since Nthane owned many companies that employed many Basotho it would not be in the national interests to send him to prison as jobs would be lost. I am not sure how Basotho think companies work and if they have ever heard that they are a separate legal entity from their owners but no matter. This is certainly an elucidation on the finer points of company law.

I have in the past been guilty of judging my countrymen, perhaps a little too harshly as it is sometimes hard to make sense of their motivations but to hear young people speak so vehemently for letting a man walk free after another has died simply because he is in a position to provide them with a livelihood reminded me once more of the stark hopelessness when it comes to finding a job in this country.

Basotho youths are not uneducated, they are not immoral or unfeeling and they certainly are not pro-murder. At least I hope so. What they are however is hungry and desperate and desperation can reduce even the most pious man to his knees. What good is moral outrage if one is outraged on an empty stomach?

What good will it do for them to be out in the street being activists for social and moral issues when they barely can afford the nine maloti to hop into a taxi and arrive at such a demonstration? To argue that anyone who can offer them jobs should be treated differently as far as the law is concerned is a statement borne out of the worst kind of desperation and instead of making me angry, it made me sad.

Now, I have not enough knowledge of the case against Nthane to say whether I feel the judgment was fair and just. All I know is I certainly want it not to be in favour of him simply because he has jobs and livelihoods to give. It is however easy for me to judge from my privileged position where I have a meal guaranteed every night. It is easy to be morally indignant when one does not have to worry about the indignities of joblessness.

I spoke last week of how easy it is for us to condemn young people who lay their bodies on the human resource table. We laugh at older people who walk for kilometres to attend political rallies and sing for “baetapele” (leaders) and fail to take into account that in a moment of desperation a man who offers you promises of a job you badly need is someone you would follow to a rally.

To see young women in the arms of 70-year-olds who are not even good company. To see young men vehemently justify that murder should be forgiven if the alleged murderer can offer them a livelihood will quickly disabuse one of the notion that there is any progress happening in Lesotho.

So here we are in a country where people are willing to sell their bodies and souls for a chance at a decent life.

Here we are about to enter another election season and the only people who stand to truly benefit are the owners of guest houses. Whether Nthane got a fair verdict or not is immaterial to me, what remains shocking is how we have lost our moral indignation as a country. It appears Tom Thabane, that erstwhile leader was right when he said “sera sa motho ke tlala”. To quote the younger generations of Ma2000: “Because wow”.

Thakane Rethabile Shale

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No peace plan, no economic recovery

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The world’s struggle to reboot economies viciously disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic remains real. However, the impact could be more severe to countries that already had dwindling economies and lack a way out, chief amongst them Lesotho. The focus on recovery gets disrupted from time to time by new variants seemingly more infectious than the previous ones; we had the Delta variant and now Omicron.

Several countries seem to be putting their own nationals ahead of everyone else. The squabble between the European Union and the United Kingdom over vaccines was but an example of leaders who put the interests of their own people first. The leaders surely knew that the world would not win the fight over Covid unless the rest of the world is vaccinated as stated by the World Health Organisation.

They however made plans to keep their people safe first, protect their boundaries and then set stringent entry conditions into their countries to further protect their own people. Though this may seem selfish, who in their right mind would not do the same?

As countries draw and implement plans to get their economies back on track, Lesotho has very little to show if anything at all. Businesses shut doors and the few people who had jobs lost their only incomes. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Lesotho was already struggling to engage in much needed capital projects because it simply did not have the money.
Sadly, there is no watertight plan let alone a draft to increase dwindling revenue following the reviewed Southern Africa Custom Union’s approach. There is basically no plan to support entrepreneurs to scale up thereby increasing the tax base. Instead, the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) is expected to milk dry the remaining few dying cows.

With this hopeless state of affairs in Lesotho, one would be misled to think that Lesotho is not capable of making solid plans and sticking to them. The reality is, Lesotho, a country of around 2 million people only is indeed capable of doing more for her few people. She has abundant resources; minerals and human capital.

Sadly, the skills and resources are always misdirected to produce negative energy among Basotho. The only fully funded strategy that Lesotho is committed to at the moment and can be articulated clearly by all parties involved without having to consult is Mothetjoa Metsing’s arrest. Metsing is accused of treason based on a hard-to-understand incident where he was a coalition partner and a Deputy Prime Minister, yet he is said to have been involved in an attempt to unseat the then Prime Minister Thabane.
Thabane of course did leave the country but Metsing never dreamt of taking over the premier’s office. The police, Public Prosecutor and the executive are all on the same page about progress and what the next move against Metsing should be.

There are officers ready to do whatever it takes to bring him down. There is no shortage of resources when it comes to arresting him. Intelligence is on top of its game when it comes to him. The propaganda machinery is fully empowered. When will the government get its priorities right?
The army commander Lt Gen Motšomotšo and senior army officials Col Sechele and Col Hashatsi were shot dead in broad daylight, within the army barracks and there is absolutely nothing and no one who has been held accountable for their killing. This against the background that former army commander Lt Gen Tlali Kamoli and others remain in prison for years pending the case surrounding among others the killing of yet another army commander Maaparankoe Mahao.

Where is the logic here? No investigations, no arrests, absolutely nothing on the killing of the three high profile army officials. Yet the government is persecuting Metsing for allegedly plotting to oust a government which never happened.
Around 80 people died in cold blood in police custody under the All Basotho Convention-led operation – “Tokho”. The then Prime Minister Tom Thabane allowed the police to torture people and the Lesotho Congress for Democracy tried to force the premier to withdraw his instructions to the police. That however drew a blank.

The police chief has not yet been called to account for these deaths. The police are doing what Basotho were complaining about during the reign of the previous regime that the army was acting with impunity. Suddenly, it is ok for the police to brutally torture and kill Basotho.
Suddenly, it is ok for army bosses to be killed with impunity. That’s the only reasonable conclusion that one arrives at based on the hesitation of the government to do anything about the killers on the government’s payroll.
The government of Lesotho needs to focus on revamping this country’s economy, creating jobs, improving health services, building infrastructure, promoting peace and unity and managing the escalating crime rate. Lesotho fails to acknowledge that the country’s peace is a group effort and Basotho must all be in it to work.

Investors are unlikely to risk their money in a country that is not at peace with itself. Until the government get its priorities right, Lesotho will continue to struggle to have peace and a stable economy. This will translate to high unemployment worse compared to where it is currently.
Metsing had a peace plan that was unfortunately not supported by some parties. Those who opposed it could only assume that it would let him go free. They never weighed options nor tabled alternative peace-making efforts. To them the country would rather suffer, rather be divided than accept the fact that the government was never toppled. There are far more pressing issues in Lesotho. Instead of paying loads of money to a foreign prosecutor, and taking much valuable time from our courts of law, we should be focusing our priorities on something positive. We need to heal and move on as a nation, not as individuals.

Potjo Potjo

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