By ‘Masentle Makara
ROMA, Sept 19 – A graduations ceremony tent put up in the Machabeng Stadium at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) was put down on Thursday morning by an unruly mob of students who went berserk protesting against the delays in payment of their allowances.
The students vented their anger following their meeting with the university’s acting Vice Chancellor ‘Manthoto Lephoto who told them that instead of boycotting classes, “you should pack your bags and go home”.
This was after the Student Representative Council (SRC) had written her a letter on Wednesday warning that they were going to boycott classes if they did not receive their allowances from the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS).
In their letter, students had expressed their intention to engage in a stay away from September 19, “as a means to show NMDS management the ramifications of the plight they have put students through in the refusal to disburse their funds to them”.
The NMDS is mandated with paying tuition fees, costs of research, book allowances, accommodation and food allowances among other costs for the selected students.
They said they would only resume lectures once more than 70 percent of NMDS sponsored students had received their allowances.
Lephotho told the angry students who kept interrupting her while talking during the Thursday morning meeting that boycotting classes was not a solution.
She emphasised if students insisted on boycotting classes, “then you have no reasons to be in the schools’ premises”.
“Your presence here is a great risk to the university and its upcoming activities especially the graduation ceremony which will be attended by the King who is the Chancellor of this university,” Lephoto said.
“We are also going to receive the graduating students and their parents, so we want to make sure that the ceremony goes ahead without any hindrance. We want to make sure that even those of you who said they are going to burn a big tent do not get an opportunity to do,” she added.
It was after these remarks that the angry mob went berserk, pulled down the tent and set it on fire.
This violent protest came only a few days after the university was reopened on September 9.
Classes were suspended indefinitely and students instructed to vacate the university residences on August 30, following three days of violent protests.
In a notice to all members of the NUL staff today, the university registrar Liteboho Maqalika-Lerotholi said with only two days left before the first leg of the graduations ceremony, preparations “are still under way”.
Lerotholi said: “Management wishes to remind the Student Body that a decision to suspend lectures can only be made by Senate and nobody else. Students on demonstration must not interfere with the rights of other students and staff who wish to continue with their work.”
The registrar also sent a chilling warning to students behind the unrest.
“Members of the staff, the student body, the university community and the Basotho nation are alerted that there is an organised clique that has infiltrated the student body with the view to orchestrate the destabilisation of the university,” she said.
“Management wishes to warn the organisers of this campaign to desist from their intended unlawful acts. The national University of Lesotho is an institution governed by law and rules to uphold order and good governance,” she added.
Lerotholi emphasized that no student was immune from the application of the laws, rules and regulations governing the university, “and they shall be applied where circumstances warrant”. NW