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NUL students boycott classes


Ntsoaki Motaung

Students of the National University of Lesotho (NUL) have pulled a tools-down stunt on account of ineffective teaching systems put in place by the university to bridge the learning gap caused by the scare of covid-19; they also complain of delayed disbursement of bursary funds by the Ministry of Planning’s National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS).

In a memo written to the institute’s management, the Student Union, Board of Academic Associations and Student’s Representative Council indicate that lectures come to a halt forthwith, that is to say, from today (November 6, 2020).

The inscription is addressed to the Vice-Chancellor and copied to Pro-Vice Chancellor, Registrar, Director Student Affairs, Students’ Union and Parents’ Committee outlining reasons for the boycott.

Top of the agenda is a teaching and learning platform which they claim is not conducive to facilitate learning which is commensurate with the fees they are paying.

Reads the memo: “At the moment we feel we are not learning at all. The kind of teaching and learning we are having at NUL is not worth what we paid for, and our concern is that this kind of unconducive teaching and learning was imposed on us arbitrary to our views of how we see best to be taught in this COVID-19 era as the major Stake holders in the teaching and learning business of the University. With this, the university seems to be gambling with our future and we cannot stand it any longer.

“Thuto is not conducive at all to carry out the teaching and learning full time as it has been entrusted by the university at this point in time. Thuto does not cater for videos and effective interactions between students and lectures. All it does is to upload materials for students to read and it also works as a channel for issuing questions, question papers and submitting assignments and tests. This is not learning. We have paid expensive tuition fee at this university in order for us to receive the best education that is up to standard and that will equip us fully with necessary knowledge and skill for the outside world. Many lecturers are not even using it at the moment and they have opted to use other online channels that are more conducive than Thuto like zoom meetings and others, and these are expensive for students though they are better of which they should be catered for by our tuition fee, not to mention that thuto is not always free as well, causing students to incur in another expenses.

“The Students’ Union Board of Academic Associations and Students’ Representative Council met to dwell on this and after consulting with the Students’ body, they made a decision to boycott the lectures until we are consulted appropriately on how we see best to be taught and our views being implemented by the Senate. We say the Senate because your office met with us at the beginning of the academic year and we reflected our views of which they were not considered and as time still goes on we saw that we are suffering academically because of that oppression hence the decision to boycott lectures until our voice is heard in terms of our teaching and learning.

“May we take this opportunity to inform your office that we will not be writing the first semester examinations scheduled to begin on 30th November 2020 by the almanac of events 2020/2021 academic year. This decision is inclusive of both Roma and IEMS campus. This decision was made by the SRC in collaboration with board of academic associations and class reps of IEMS and it was endorsed by the SU yesterday. The reason for this decision is that we were not taught long enough so that we can be writing examinations this month and at IEMS our members have not even stated to be taught until now. It is only this week that our first years at IEMS are being trained to use Thuto. A semester is supposed to be four to five months long as it is always the case and for the 2020/2021 academic year first semester, we cannot be taught for two months at main campus and one month at IEMS campus and say we have covered the content of a semester so much so that we can write examinations.”

Since the global scourge of Covid-19 which has disrupted about everything, the university like other institutions of learning was forced to a momentary halt at the behest of a national lockdown. When the situation abated and school resumed, it had to be under different a set-up in observing covid-19 health protocols barring physical attending of classes which is why online platform became order of the day.

However, students feel this arrangement is not working as should because they have to incur more expenses while already embroiled in hunger as a result of unpaid bursary allowances.

“The university seems to be gambling with the quality of our education and our future by these acts and we cannot stand it. We therefore demand that the examination date be extended to cover for similar time of a normal semester otherwise we are boycotting the November December examinations as scheduled by the almanac of events.

“We have been long waiting for our monies from NMDS and they arrive in small numbers whereby a large scale of students hasn’t received their monies. The SRC have been repeatedly going to meetings with NMDS and Development planning in pursuit of these monies but to date we still have problems.

“The effects of this problem to date made us to make decision to boycott lectures until all students have received money. There are cases of students who reports to DSA and SRC to be severely starving. Some left Roma to home because they were starving to death not to forget that they came to stay at Roma because they could not study well at home. Some have been expelled from their places of residence because of the unavailability of money.

“Some lectures carry out teaching and learning through WhatsApp and zoom meetings, things that are expensive and needs data and the unavailability money hinders that. These obstacles have hindered our psychological mind and we can’t focus on our academic work. The pressure is too much, students start to have depression so much that some take their lives and some get to have mental disorders,” reads part of the letter. Meanwhile, management was not immediately available for a comment last night.

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