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Saturday, 12 February 2011


Limkokwing, the private university about to set up shop in Swaziland, is so desperate to attract fee-paying students (or those with Swazi Government scholarships) it will not require them to have qualifications in the English language.

And Wilson Ntshangase, the Minister of Education and Training, reckons students don’t need English anyway.

‘People should shed the thought that English is more important than other subjects. Fine, English is important, but there is nothing suspicious with Limkokwing saying it will not be a requirement for admission in some courses,’ the Minister said on SBIS radio, according to the Weekend Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III.

Ntshangase said the difference between Limkokwing and the University of Swaziland (UNISWA) was that Limkokwing was a skills-based and a practical university, while UNISWA was more of an academic institution with most of the courses being theoretical.

Ntshangase said that’s why Limkokwing did not require English as a prerequisite for admission.

Ntshangase is wrong. If classes are taught in English students need a relatively high level of English language skill to understand what’s going on. And that’s the same whether the class is ‘academic’ or ‘practical’. It’s a no-brainer.

And Ntshangase is also wrong to say there’s ‘nothing suspicious’ about Limkokwing wanting lower qualifications for entry than is usual for other universities. Limkokwing makes its money from student fees. The more students it signs up, the more money it makes. Another no-brainer.

Meanwhile, the Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS) has expressed worries about the quality of education Limkokwing will provide. It is right to do so. As I wrote last week, there are serious questions about the quality of their students, teachers and courses at its campus in Botswana.

Things are no better at Limkokwing in Lesotho. Students have constantly complained about ‘poor management and lack of basic services’ at the university which opened with 1,200 students in 2008. In September 2010, students had to go to court to get the university reopened after the administration closed it for 19 days when students went on strike to get improvements at the university.

The students were also complaining that most of their lecturers ‘were incompetent or not qualified,’ according to a report in the, Sunday Express, Lesotho.

Students also went on strike in March 2009 and again in April 2010 for the same reasons.

Students have also complained about the constant cutting off of water and electricity supplies at their residences and the university changing their courses without notifying them.

The Lesotho Times reported in 2009, shortly after Limkokwing opened, ‘The students said most of the problems at the university were due to the fact that there was no student representative council (SRC) to champion their concerns.

‘They accused management of working hard to “ensure there was no SRC” at the campus.’

An SRC was eventually set up. In 2010, following a lengthy student strike, the President of the SRC was expelled from the university for ‘disrupting classes’.

The Swaziland Government has agreed to use public money to fund up to 800 scholarships per year at the privately-owned Limkokwing University. This could cost up to E16 million (US$2.1 million) per year.

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