12 February 2013

Namibia: Lecturer Shortage Hits Polytechnic

Rundu — The Polytechnic of Namibia has been hit by a crippling shortage of lecturers in the engineering department. The situation has forced some students to seek admission at other institutions, since some of their courses will no longer be offered by the Polytechnic of Namibia this year.

Responding to questions from New Era recently, former Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN) Student Representative Council president, Eben Kamatoto, revealed that he was forced to relinquish his position and requested a transfer of his academic credits to the Cape Peninsula University of Technology where he hopes to complete his studies. Kamatoto was a Bachelor of Technology student in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the PoN.

He said fourth-year Bachelor of Power and Electronic Engineering students were advised to return in 2014, because there are no lecturers for their courses. "A notice was put up at the Department of Electrical Engineering at the Polytechnic of Namibia, stating that there will be no courses offered this year for the B-Tech Power and B-Tech Electronic Engineering courses due to a shortage of lecturers in the department," he said.

"The students only noticed that the courses were cancelled after experiencing problems with the online registration process. When I asked why the office of the SRC was not informed about the lecturer shortage or why the students were not represented at the meeting where the decision was taken, management told me that it does not form part of my duties and they are not obliged to inform me about decisions taken at management level," revealed Kamatoto.

"This is a clear indication that the institution does not care for Namibian and international students, " said Kamatoto. "The honours course in entrepreneurship has been discontinued due to management failure and the students were not warned in advance, which is a clear indication that student leaders are not even informed about the decisions of the university, even though they are said to be part of management," said Kamatoto.

"To be honest, we are not part of management, but we are however willing to work with them as customers and representatives of the majority of students to see how we can create a safe and conducive environment in which students, academics and social development is protected, " he said.

Kamatoto further blasted the PoN for introducing study programmes with limited resources, without first considering the financial implications and the repercussions of their decisions.

"This is a result of their failed plans and uncalculated decisions, they should therefore account for it."

Only final year students are said to be affected by the dilemma, since classes for the first, second and third year students continue.

Disgruntled students who called New Era lambasted the institution for failing to consult with them in advance so that they could make alternative arrangements.

"I have already paid for my accommodation this year, and now they are telling me that we cannot attend classes, because there are no lecturers, why did they not tell us about this last year already," said a student who spoke on condition of anonymity. Students with bursaries must now renegotiate their bursary contracts with sponsors or otherwise settle their own tuition bill once the institution remedies the situation eventually.

A senior PoN academic who spoke to New Era last week admitted the institution faces problems finding qualified lecturers in the engineering department. "There is a shortage of qualified lecturers in the engineering field, and Poly is not the only university with this problem, even Unam (University of Namibia) and other universities in SADC have this problem," said the senior PoN academic, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"We even approached countries in Europe but they cannot assist us, because they also need these people for their own use. We have however entered into bilateral agreements with some universities, which offer their lecturers to us to come and teach block courses during certain times of the year," said the senior academic.

He further said the PoN's recently accorded university status would boost its chances of attracting lecturers from all over the world. "It is very difficult to lure someone from a university to come and teach at an institution with a lower status," explained a senior PoN staff member. Last year the Ministry of Education granted the PoN university status. Cabinet also ordered that the institution retain certificate and diploma courses for a maximum period of five years.

The Polytechnic will soon be renamed to reflect its newly conferred status as a university of science and technology.

The institution's enrolment figures stood at 12 965 last year, a number which could increase drastically once the name change comes into force and deepen the institution's woes. Several efforts over the past week to get comment from Kaitira Kandjii, the director of marketing and communication, who also serves as the spokesman for the PoN were unsuccessful as he was locked up in meetings,according to his secretary.

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