…parliament expected to issue recommendations on way forward
MASERU – Up to 180 National University of Lesotho (NUL) first-year students will not get their end of year results unless they pay a tuition fee of around M3.8 million they collectively owe the university, Public Eye can report. The students were allowed to commence their studies without financial clearance and, unfortunately, the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS) could not fund their studies. NUL Deputy Chancellor, Isaac Fajana, said the students were admitted academically and allowed to continue with their studies while waiting for financial clearance because of time constraints.
He said the students were admitted with 2 500 others, from which among them only 1 620 were supposed to be sponsored by the NMDS. After completion of registration, he said 300 students were left without any money to pay for their fees or a plan on how to pay as they were expecting to be sponsored by NMDS. He said at a later stage, NMDS offered to pay for an additional 120 students leaving the other 180 behind.
Explaining how students were allowed to attend classes without financial clearance, he noted that unlike all past years, students applied via the online platform and it took the school long time to move them from the platform they were registering in to the learning one. To wait for its completion would have wasted more learning time which students had already lost as a result of late re-opening of the school.
He said to date these students who have been attending classes since the beginning of the academic year are in the middle of writing their examinations but will not get their end of year results unless they pay the institution. The students are from disadvantaged backgrounds and have no means to pay for their studies. The students asked for the tuition waiver from the school but Fajana said NUL cannot afford to cancel the tuition loan due to its financial situation. Fajana said the students have been informed that they have to find ways to pay the tuition fee as the university will not afford to give them a waiver.
As much as they want to help the students, he said they also do not want to destroy the school as it is already struggling financially and losing M3.8 million would negatively affect the already crumbling school’s financial state. He was speaking before the parliament’s Social Cluster Committee which invited the university, the ministry of education, the ministry of finance and ministry of planning to resolve the dilemma faced by students in question.
The Ministry of Planning did not honour the invitation for two consecutive weeks and, as a result, negotiations on the way forward were stopped by its absence. Finance ministry principal secretary, Nthoateng Lebona, said they have not received any communication from the Ministry of Planning on the matter therefore their hands are tied on how to go about the issue.
The 180 first year students wrote a letter to the social cluster committee seeking its assistance to help them get a tuition waiver. In their letter dated April 25, students asked to be given a tuition waiver of M3 802 460 in tuition fees so that they can get their end of year results that will enable them to apply for NMDS sponsorship in the coming academic year. “This letter serves as a plea to the committee from 180 unsponsored first year students at the National University of Lesotho.
“Firstly, we genuinely appreciate your assistance on the previous letter we sent that was requesting your intervention on sponsorship through Mr Fako Moshoeshoe as the chairperson of the committee. “The committee did plea on our behalf and to the National Development Secretariat in regard to sponsorship, hence a portion of us got sponsored. Up to 120 students from 300 were sponsored.
“The 180 remaining students appeared on the NMDS waiting list and, unfortunately, NMDS announced that all vacancies have been filled. We wish to make you aware that fortunately enough, all first year students for this academic year were enabled to register academically at the beginning of this academic year for the first semester. “The problem we are facing currently is that, now it is clear that we are without financial clearance and we will not be able to access our year end results.
“Realizing the academic journey that we have already travelled in the first semester and sacrifices that we have made, including on food, accommodation and learning aids, we feel like it will not be fair for us to pack our things and go back after travelling that far,” reads the letter. The students added that their plea is for this academic year, to help them register academically for the second semester and also receive their results at the end of the academic year which they will use to seek for sponsorship from NMDS in the next academic year. They said they are prepared to continue to struggle with food and accommodation if the tuition fee is to be paid.
The students are from faculties including humanities, spiritual care and counselling, economics and education. Chairperson of parliament’s Social Cluster Committee, Fako Moshoeshoe, said since the Ministry of Planning has failed to honour his invitation to negotiate and see how responsible parties can resolve the matter, the committee has made a report with recommendations that it will at a later stage present to parliament for adoption.