Sunday, January 24, 2010


Maybe it’s a coincidence, or maybe it’s a campaign, but the Times of Swaziland published two letters from readers on the same day praising Limkokwing University and pleading for it to open up a campus in Swaziland.

Limkokwing is a private university based in Malaysia that is expanding rapidly across the world.

The university has an on-off, on-off relationship with Swaziland and has been promising to set up in the kingdom for a couple of years now. But every time it sets a deadline the date comes and goes, but no university appears.

The latest deadline (missed again) was next month (February 2010).

But now the Swaziland Minister of Education and Training Wilson Ntshangase has confirmed Limkokwing will not be opening in Swaziland any time soon

‘There are a lot of issues that we still have to iron out before they can open. Furthermore, these guys are now making ridiculous demands which they did not make when they first came here. For instance, they now want us to pay scholarships for 1000 students for ten years! They also want to be exempted from paying tax and not be required to pay rentals for the premises they want to occupy,’ he told the Weekend Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III.

Limkokwing has a controversial history of global expansion. When it went into Botswana in 2007 it was beset with complaints about the poor quality of teaching and concerns over whether it was good enough to be called a ‘university’.

It originally promised to set up in Swaziland if the Swazi Government put forward E3million (about 430,000 US dollars) to pay the scholarship of students.

That money has not been paid, so – unsurprisingly since Limkokwing is a business and not a charity (as many private universities are) – no campus has yet opened. When the Weekend Observer visited the site of the proposed campus in Mbabane, Swaziland’s capital, it found, ‘The entire premises are so terribly bushy and resemble an abandoned zoo’.

Swaziland has only one university, the state-run University of Swaziland which has King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, as Chancellor. One of his (many) half-brothers Prince Phinda is chair of the governing council.

For many years there have been doubts about whether the kingdom which has a population of one million people, 70 percent of whom live in abject poverty, earning less than one US dollar a day, can afford a university.

Personally, I don’t think it can so there’s no chance that the Swazi Government can come up with scholarships for Limkokwing. Only this month the Swazi Government forced budget cuts of 14 percent on all departments in an effort to stave off a financial meltdown in the kingdom.

Even if the money was available, I don’t think Limkokwing is the answer to Swaziland’s need for highly educated people as its credentials as an institution of high learning are in doubt.

Recently the university advertised for lecturing staff to teach at the 30 universities it says it will set up across the world ‘over the next few years’. Potential staff were required to have at least a bachelor degree and some teaching experience. Hardly the qualifications usually expected of a university lecturer.

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