Africa-Press – Lesotho. There is a Bible verse that says “kopa u tla fuoa” (ask and you will be given) and Basotho have extended the idea by coming up with another concept: “ha a hana u inkele”. Unfortunately we have taken this too far.
Last week former education minister Phiri was said to be under investigation after she illegally signed a deal with Lincoln University College of Malaysia some time last year to set up a medical school in Lesotho.
To simplify a story that is being told in complexities, she had been denied a chance to seal the deal but she signed it regardless. To get into multi-million deals, one is to follow a certain protocol and get approval so they can go ahead and seal the deal with everyone’s concern and knowledge.
But the former minister did everything out of the desire of her heart, put both feet in and jumped into the deal without any approval or authorisation from Cabinet.
Maybe she acted out of desperation to probably see her country someday flourishing with a medical school. But that we do not know. The former minister and the higher education principal secretary will probably be charged with corruption and abuse of office when investigations are done.
What is making my head dizzy is how even though the Cabinet had not approved the deal it had started discussing the establishment of the medical school atop the Berea Plateu.
How do you plan to lay a foundation of what was illegally acquired when it is in your knowledge that everything was not done by the book? Do I smell foul play or are we not being told everything?
An article that reported the whole ordeal stated a fact that could be used in favour of a possible return to office to renegotiate the deal. But that can only happen if all involved persons can calm their minds down and think about the whole deal leaving aside the improper procedure that was followed.
The story said: “Although the contract looked attractive to Lesotho, a country with a dire shortage of medical professionals, Phiri did not have the cabinet’s approval to sign it”.
We only have the National University of Lesotho that offers general nursing under the Faculty of Science, the Roma College of Nursing that offers midwifery training, the National Health Training College, Paray School of Nursing and Scott College of Nursing to equip the country with what we term “medical professionals”.
That is how far our country can go in terms of producing medical professionals, nurses and midwives. Besides these “well established” medical colleges in our terms and conditions as an under-developed country, we keep having para-medical schools that keep coming and going because they are never sponsored and do not get assistance from the government as all other institutions.
A properly established medical school in the Kingdom of Lesotho would be both beneficial to the country and to Basotho. We would no longer have to outsource medical professionals to bring into our medical institutions because we would have our locally produced surgeons, neuroscientists, physiotherapist etc.
Aspiring Basotho medical professionals would no longer have to fight tooth and nail to go study medicine in South Africa, Malaysia and India, etc, because we would have our own medical school in the country.
Of course, I understand that proper procedures were not followed to bring this life-changing opportunity to Lesotho and Basotho. But may we please not turn a blind eye on the fact that this is the kind of deal that would have helped Lesotho a great deal in terms of upgrading its education system.
The establishment of such a medical school should not be left to vanish into thin air the same way the building of a sports facility at Lepereng did with countless lawsuits and visits to the High Court.
Those who broke the law should be held responsible and should account for their wrongdoings. But the Cabinet should go back and renegotiate the deal with Lincoln University and make it work by all means necessary because this is one school we really need as a country.
Imagine the investments that would come flowing in because of one institution and the relations we would form with well developed countries if we legally sealed this one.
A transparent and pure partnership between Lesotho and Malaysia aims at benefiting Basotho students. And the university’s president made it clear that they were not aware of the shortcuts the minister allegedly took in signing the deal.
Hence they did not even fight when the deal was called off. But we should not pride ourselves with being able to spot corruption and settling misunderstandings and yet allow great opportunities that could help grow this country slip through our hands. We therefore must explore new ways to get the medical school initiative back on track.
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