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Opinion - Is NUST Xenophobic?

2021-11-29  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Is NUST Xenophobic?
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The recent decision by NUST not to renew contracts for foreign lecturers and have them re-apply is worrying, to say the least. In explaining this rather bizarre decision, NUST spokesperson, Nico Smit indicated, “it’s not a matter of being xenophobic or anything...” 

One wonders whether anybody had said this action is xenophobic, or Nico and the entire NUST administration knows it is.  It is perhaps critical to understand what it means to be xenophobic. 

Being xenophobic means using an approach that segregates or prejudices people from other countries. NUST spokesperson went on to indicate that this decision is “part of a new strategic plan and there is restructuring in it”. If at all this is a restructuring exercise, the question is, why is it only targeting foreigners. 

Is NUST, therefore, not being xenophobic? Restructuring is a strategic approach, which should be aimed at strengthening an organisation’s business model. When such an approach is targeting only foreign nationals, then it becomes questionable, and perhaps far from what restructuring is all about. 

One wonders therefore if restructuring is not just used as a smokescreen to hide NUST’s xenophobic undertones. What is even more shocking is NUST’s attempt to link this bizarre exercise to covid-19. In explaining the exercise, the spokesperson said “we are still not out of covid-19 and we are doing our best to make sure the institution is in order”. How are foreign lecturers linked to covid-19 and NUST not being in order? 

These lecturers were hired by NUST and the same institution cannot suddenly view their presence as causing disorder. If this is not xenophobic, I don’t know what it is.

There is no hiding that this action taken by NUST is xenophobic. 

According to the report, as many as 80 lectures were given letters thanking them for their services. It is also reported that these foreign lecturers were instructed to contact human resources to make repatriation arrangements. It is critical to remember what the NUST spokesperson said when explaining this exercise. 

He stated that “nobody needs to be worried because they are not going to lose their jobs” Given that the affected lecturers have been told to make repatriation arrangements, this ranks as a contradiction of the highest order. 

How can people be asked to re-apply and then at the same time be told to make repatriation arrangements with HR? There is, therefore, no doubt that NUST wants these lecturers out, and the only reason seems to be that they are foreigners. Is this not being xenophobic? 

Why should we label others as foreigners, we are all human. What is even sadder is the fact that if we are dealing with our fellow black Africans, we label them as foreigners, but if it’s a white person, we refer to them by their nationalities. 

The use of the word ‘foreigner’ is, therefore, xenophobic, as it prejudices them. What compounds this and even brings NUST’s xenophobic behaviour to the fore, is their claim that this decision is part of a restructuring exercise. When does an authentic restructuring exercise include only staff from other countries?

There is no doubt that NUST did not consider the adverse effects this so-called “restructuring’ exercise will have on the students. One of the affected lecturers indicated that they have since stopped working to focus on looking for other jobs. It must be remembered that all this is happening in the middle of the semester. It is therefore not only shocking but upsetting that the acting secretary general of the student union of Namibia welcomed this move, without realising how it will jeopardise the students’ studies. 

The secretary general of the Students Union of Namibia says it’s time for Namibians who are unemployed to get jobs, but he forgets that these are academics (professors and PhD holders) with long years of experience. They cannot just be replaced by a mere degree holder. Shockingly, the ones who have been voted into power by students lack basic knowledge of how the academic world works. 

A university needs experienced academics with diverse knowledge. This is what has made other global institutions succeed, and yet in Namibia, we are trying to chase these skills away. Oxford University will not be the great institution it is without diverse skills from all over the world. Harvard could not be having such a global presence without a diversified skills base. 

The University of Cape Town and many other great universities in Africa have become global institutions because they have a wide range of skilled lecturers from all over the world. It is so unfortunate that NUST, in this day and age, thinks it should only have local lecturers. A university is meant to be a centre of knowledge and excellence, and yet in this instance, NUST is proving to be a centre of ignorance.

We need to understand that the much talked about the need for foreign direct investment (FDI) should not just be monetary but also in skills. The President calls for foreign investment daily yet NUST is orchestrating a plan to get rid of the much-needed skill investments from other countries, purportedly after being given a directive from the ministry of home affairs. This smells of a clear xenophobic attack on foreigners. How can we only want monetary investment and not investment in skills? Let us copy what other great nations have done. 

Great America is made up of people from all nations, the country actively imports skilled people and hence their economy is the biggest in the world. South Africa, our neighbour, has the biggest economy in Africa. This is because they, like the USA imports skilled people from all over the world to come and share their knowledge and develop their nation. 

This explains why they have one of the most sophisticated rails and road networks in the world. 

Covid-19 is a serious pandemic that should not be used as a lame excuse to explain NUST’s xenophobic actions. The attempt to link the decision to make all foreign lecturers re-apply to covid-19 is not only lousy but an insult to our intelligence as a nation. We need to realise that this pandemic affected everyone within the borders of Namibia. 

The statement the NUST spokesperson made therefore must be dismissed with all the contempt it deserves. What NUST has done is trivialising a pandemic that has killed so many of our people. What NUST should be doing instead is to help the nation through research, to understand the pandemic, so we can be better prepared for future waves. Regrettably, the institution is spending its time fighting fellow Africans and shamefully using covid-19 as an excuse. NUST was once a great institution under the leadership of Tjivikua and it is said that since the departure of this great academic and businessman in 2019, NUST has continued falling apart like breadcrumbs.

Organisational leaders should be responsible and accountable for the success of the institutions and the people they lead. It is only in that way that the future of our nation in general and that of our children, in particular, will be guaranteed. 

Our children’s future depends on our actions today. Recent actions by the leadership of NUST, however, leave a lot to be desired. Instead of focussing on building the institution and strengthening its skills base for the benefit of the students, the institution has sunk low to involve itself in xenophobia, a societal evil that should never be found anywhere near the centre of academic excellence. One hopes that the leadership at NUST will rise to the occasion and shun xenophobia for what it is, a social evil that destroys our Africanasity.


2021-11-29  Staff Reporter

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