‘Manpower’ boss raps LCE fees hike



MASERU – The Director of the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS), Florina Rakeketsi, has sharply criticised the Lesotho College of Education (LCE)’s decision to increase fees by five percent for the 2022–2023 academic year, despite the government’s strained financial situation. She argues that LCE ignored warnings that the government could only sustain a 2.5 percent increase, yet proceeded with the full adjustment.

Rakeketsi contends that the government has already paid the amount it committed to under the bursary contract with students and cannot afford the additional unilateral fee increase imposed by the college. “The government has already paid the amount stipulated in the bursary contract with students to LCE; the issue is the college’s unilateral fee increase, which the government cannot afford,” she explains.

She says LCE’s decision to raise fees was made without proper authorization, as the college council should propose any fee increases for government review and decision through the relevant ministries. However, LCE maintains that the government has the financial capacity to support the fee increase but simply lacks the will to do so. This claim is bolstered by the fact that the Ministry of Education returned M40 million to the Treasury at the end of the 2023–2024 financial year.

“I assert that the funds needed to finance higher education are available but have not been allocated to the appropriate governmental bodies,” Rakeketsi adds. Alphonso Khalema, Deputy-Rector of Administration at LCE, insists in his court affidavit that the fee increase is lawful and necessary for the college’s sustainability. “The college cannot continue to function effectively without adjusting the fees. The council implemented the increase because it was essential to maintaining the college’s operations,” Khalema states.

NMDS should be compelled to cover the additional costs for the students, he said. He argues that if the court mandates the college to continue its programmes without implementing the fee adjustment, it will result in the closure of the institution within 90 days due to operational constraints. He also reminded the government that, according to Section 28 of the Constitution, it is obligated to ensure that Basotho children receive an education, which justifies the typically substantial budget allocated to the Ministry of Education.

These points are part of the school’s response in an affidavit to a lawsuit filed by the Student Representative Council (SRC) and the student union, which demands the government to cover the increased fees. This legal action became necessary after the college raised fees and instructed students to personally cover the difference, following the government’s failure to agree to the new fee structure.

The escalation of the issue led to student strikes, prompting the administration to expel them. When students were allowed to return, it was under the condition that they sign agreements to pay the outstanding fees. Unwilling to accept this demand, the students initiated legal proceedings to challenge it. The students requested that the court declare that LCE be stopped from demanding additional fees from NMDS-sponsored students, asserting that these fees should be recoverable from the government of Lesotho.

They also seek an order for NMDS to cover the full academic tuition fees it originally committed to paying for each sponsored student. Additionally, the students’ body has requested that the court mandate the secretariat and the school to resolve the fee impasse within a reasonable timeframe and, during these negotiations, LCE must allow students to continue with their studies uninterrupted.

High Court Judge ’Mafelile Ralebese ruled that while the case is being adjudicated, students must be allowed to attend classes without any hindrance. Under the revised fee structure, students are required to pay additional amounts ranging from M4,200 to M4,700, plus a top-up amount of M875 for accommodation beyond what NMDS has already contributed. The tuition fees for both the Diploma in Education Primary and the Diploma in Education Secondary-Arts and Social Sciences have escalated from M11,275 to M16,000.

The fee for the Diploma in Education Secondary – Applied Science has risen from M13,786 to M18,000, while the Diploma in Education – Pure Science now costs M18,000, up from M13,786. Hostel fees have also increased from M5,125 to M6,000. The school has issued a notice to students, emphasising the necessity for them to settle the balance based on their enrolled programmes to avoid potential consequences.

The memorandum emphasises a critical clause from the College Students Financial Regulations relevant to the current situation: “Students are required to note the following clause of the College Students Financial Regulations that is applicable to this matter: all students are responsible for the prompt settlement of their financial obligations to the college.”

The memorandum adds: “Should a student leave the college without having paid the prescribed fees, including fines due, or with library books issued out of his or her pockets, his or her certificate shall be withheld until such fees have been recovered.” This initial memorandum was followed by another on April 4, which permitted students to return to campus under specific conditions.

It states: “Following the constructive deliberations of the college management and the Student Representative Council (SRC) meeting held on April 4, 2024, and considering the expressed desire of the student union to return to normalcy and full teaching and learning activities, the college management has reached an agreement with the SRC on behalf of the SU that students will be allowed back on campus and that upon their return, students will commit to financial undertakings and liabilities to settle all outstanding fees and financial obligations before the end of the academic year.”

The memo also specifies that upon their specified return dates, students will be required to sign financial undertakings as a precondition for re-entering the campus premises. The Student Representative Council (SRC) reports that when it relayed the school’s stance on this issue, the majority of students said they were unable to pay the outstanding fees, citing lack of personal funds as they rely on sponsorship.

Students argue that they have a legitimate expectation for the government to cover all their fees, following an agreement signed with NMDS because they are unable to afford these costs themselves. High Court Judge Polo Banyane is scheduled to hear the arguments on a date that has yet to be determined.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *