I am not surprised to read in the Weekend Observer that Swaziland’s latest university has failed to materialise.
Limkokwing University was supposed to be opening next month (February 2009) but the newspaper reported that when its reporter went to university campus located at the Swaziland Institute of Management and Public Administrations (SIMPA) premises in Mbabane he found there ‘was no sign of life except for the over-grown grass [and] broken windows’.
Further inquiries by the reporter failed to discover when the university would open.
Limkokwing, with headquarters in Malaysia, is a ‘private’ university (that is one not funded by government). And as I wrote in November 2008, unlike many private universities which run as charities, this one intends to be profit-making. The kingdom only has one university at present the state-run University of Swaziland.
Limkokwing advertised that it would run courses in technology, arts, communication, television and broadcasting, business, sound and music, lifestyle, creativity and innovation.
According to the Weekend Observer, Limkokwing had asked the Swazi Government to secure 1,000 scholarships at a cost estimated to be E3million (about 430,000 US dollars) for students to study within the institution. When news of this got out in December hundreds of people tried to get scholarships from the Swazi Ministry of Education.
Personally, I doubt if Swaziland can afford to make such payments for students, especially when you consider the difficulty the government has in financing students at its own University of Swaziland.
The delay in securing finance form the Swazi Government may explain why Limkokwing has yet to open in Swaziland, but if experiences in Botswana are anything to go by, the legitimacy of Limkokwing as a university may be in question.
Limkokwing officially opened in Botswana in 2007 with the same noise it has been trying to generate in Swaziland. Since then it has been beset with difficulties and complaints.
In December 2008, Permanent Secretary in the Botswana Ministry of Education and Skills Development, Ruth Maphorisa, said there were a few things that were happening at Limkokwing that the ministry found ‘questionable’.
At a press conference she said the ministry was concerned that Limkokwing staff are inadequately trained, that recently-graduated students are used to teach the remaining students and that lecturers are not based in Botswana, but also travel to other Limkokwing universities in Malaysia or Lesotho.
Doubts have also arisen about whether courses taught at the university are accredited by any official organisation
Maphorisa said the ministry was looking at various options, if nothing changes, including transfer of students at Limkokwing Malaysia to other institutions offering the same courses within Malaysia.
As I wrote last week, in Swaziland it is vital that there is a clear understanding about what is the purpose of university education in the kingdom. Many people cannot fathom the role of the University of Swaziland and with Limkokwing possibly joining it in the kingdom, the need for a coherent, transparent policy on university education is urgently needed.
For more on Limkokwing in Botswana click here.