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Lesotho - Higher Education

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceLesotho - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education


In the first half of the twentieth century, Basotho students could study at Fort Hare College (the University of Fort Hare) in the Cape Province in South Africa. The colonial government paid the college three hundred pounds per year for this service and was represented at its board of governors. In 1958 this agreement was terminated by South Africa.

The National University of Lesotho situated in Roma, about 34 kilometers. from Maseru, the University of Botswana, and the University of Swaziland are offshoots of a common university. The Universities had their origin in the Pius XII College, a Catholic University College that was founded by the Roman Catholic Hierarchy of Southern Africa on April 8, 1945 on a temporary site at Roma. The objective of the College was to provide African Catholic students with a post-matriculation (high school exit exam) and religious education. In 1946 the College moved to its permanent site, and by 1959 the student population had increased to 171 students from the original five. By 1963 the number of students had grown to 180 and necessary facilities had been added.

From 1954 to 1964, Pius XII College was an "Associate College" of the University of South Africa in Pretoria, a distance education institution that examined the students and offered degrees in Arts, Science, Commerce, and Education. In the early 1960s, as apartheid legislation in South Africa became more restrictive, problems arose with regard to student residence requirements. Consequently an independent, non-denominational university was established by Royal Charter through the High Commission for Basutoland, Bechuanaland, and Swaziland. On January 1, 1964, under a Charter granted by Queen Elizabeth II of England, the Pius XII College became an integral part of the independent, nondenominational University of Basutoland, Bechuanaland Protectorate, and Swaziland. The University was funded equally by the governments of all three countries, but the main campus was in Lesotho, and there was no university presence in the other two countries, with the exception of the beginnings of the Faculty of Agriculture in Luyengo, Swaziland. After independence in 1966, campuses were established in Gaborone, Botswana, and in Kwaluseni, Swaziland. In 1966, after independence was granted to the present day Botswana and Lesotho, the name was changed to the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland, which offered its first degrees in 1967 in four-year programs in Science and Education, and a Law degree which included two years of study at the University of Edinburgh.

On October 20, 1975, the Roma campus in Lesotho withdrew to become the National University of Lesotho. In 2001, the student population was around two thousand, of which about twenty were postgraduate (master's degree or higher) students. Degrees are offered in the faculties of Agriculture, Humanities, Law, Science, Social Science, and Education. Advanced degrees are offered in the faculties of Education, Humanities, and Social Sciences. The University also houses the Institute of Extra Mural Studies, the Institute of Southern African Studies, and the Institute of Education.

Admission requirements to degree courses are the COSC with a credit in English language and in mathematics if the student wishes to follow the B.Sc. Program or the Matriculation Certificate of the Republic of South Africa, provided credit has been gained for English at the Higher Grade Level. Bachelor's degree programs are generally four years in duration with the academic year broken into two semesters of fifteen weeks each. A final exam is administered at the end of each year. In the grading system, the grade of A, a First Class degree, is rarely given. Grades of B and C are considered very strong grades and to receive a D is to receive a respectable grade. In order to receive a degree, an overall D average must be obtained.

In line with the British influence, master's degree programs are normally research oriented, though some course work may be required. Master's degrees are offered in the Arts, Science, and in Education. Ph.D. programs are research oriented. The professors at the National University of Lesotho are well qualified. Many are expatriates, which gives the university an international character.

At the National University of Lesotho, the building housing the Thomas Mofolo Library, named after the Mosotho author Thomas Mofolo, was built with funds provided by the World Council of Churches and the World University Services. It was officially opened on April 1, 1966. The library has more than 125,000 volumes of books and bound periodicals, and its Information System is currently being automated. The library is to join the Southern African Bibliographic Network based in South Africa and to use its facilities to catalogue library materials and inter-library lending and is preparing records for input into the Pan African Development information System based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The library houses the BOLESWA collection, the materials concerning the Universities of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland, and is a depository of United Nations materials in Lesotho.

The National University of Lesotho has offered part-time courses since 1960 when it instituted in-service courses for teachers as well as the Postgraduate Certificate in Education and the Bachelor of Education (also a postgraduate degree). During the 1994-1995 academic year it was decided to use distance education methods to reach students from all over the country. The Institute of Extra-Mural Studies is headquartered in Maseru and has regional centers, which can be used as resource centers for part-time learners in the south, the north, and in the mountains. Courses are offered through the medium of printed correspondence texts, audio, and video materials, tutorial support, monthly two-day weekend meetings, four week residential courses, and, where possible, through video cassettes and radio broadcasts.

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