From the Vice Chancellor's Desk
In keeping with the highest traditions of the institutions of higher learning, I am delighted to present my second comprehensive report for the academic year 2019/20 to the University Council. The year 2019/20 was a year of unimaginable global health challenges. Covid-19 outbreaks impacted on the way of life to mankind in every continent inducing restrictions in our normal activities. As a University, we were not spared. I am pleased, however, to report that staff and students rose to the occasion and quickly adjusted to the new normal within the parameters set by the Ministry of Heath to minimize the spread of the deadly pandemic.
Teaching and Learning
Following the partial lockdown imposed by Government, academic staff took the appropriate steps to transition students from face-to-face to online learning. Google Classroom and other platforms were used to make sure that teaching and learning did not stop completely. Accordingly, continuous assessment requirements were fulfilled. As soon as the lockdown regulations were eased, students were allowed to come to campus on rotational basis for practicals, further followed by face-to-face instruction and end-of-semester examinations. We are very proud of our staff and students in that we have together achieved our educational objectives and at the same time successfully complied with Covid-19 regulations to the satisfaction of the Ministry of Health.
Normally at the end of each academic year, the members of the University community meet to celebrate the success of final year students and to see them graduate. Covid-19 has unfortunately denied us this day of jubilation. The University is planning to hold a virtual graduation ceremony to be held sometime in January 2021. I must, however, express my most sincere gratitude to the Government of Eswatini, parents and guardians who have provided support to the graduating class during their studies.
We are further encouraged that our products are doing well in the field of work. Our graduates in Nursing Science have done very well in the entry to Practice Examinations set by the Eswatini Nursing Council. We are meeting the required professional standards.
In 2017.The Eswatini Higher Education Council (EHEC) directed EMCU to migrate from the traditional Contact Hour Grading System to the SADC CREDIT ACCUMULATION AND TRANSFER SYSTEM (SADC-CAT). The curriculum review process was completed and fully adopted in 2019. All programmes at EMCU are structured based on the ESWATINI QUALIFICATIONS FRAMEWORK which is based on the SADC CREDIT ACCUMULATION AND TRANSFER SYSTEM (SADC-CAT). EMCU’s academic programmes are monitored by Professional bodies such as the Eswatini Nursing Council and The Eswatini Medical and Dental Council.
EMCU ‘s staffing level continues to be a challenge mainly because of the difficulties of recruiting highly credentialled acadmic staff especially at doctoral and professorial levels. For some departments, EMCU has relied heavily on part-time lectures and continued to offer block teaching with lecturers coming from South African Universities. Department’s hard hit by the shortage of such personnel are the Medical Laboratory Sciences, Social Work and Radiography. Engagement of these part-time lectures and block teaching is to ensure that the quality of teaching and learning is not compromised. Although not ideal it is acceptable for Universities to use part-time lecturers and block teaching where there is a need, and also to create a stable and expert teaching force. Universities in the country have relied on similar arrangements where there was a need. Sabbatical scholars from other Universities join EMCU for a period of one year. I must commend the staff who have earned their PhDs and encourage others to pursue higher degrees as required.
Our institution continues to have links with other institutions of higher learning. The purpose of having such links is to promote research and to make sure that the programmes on offer are of international standard.
To the existing list of about ten link universities, I am pleased to report that we have added the North West University in Potchefsromm (for Pharmacy) and a University widely linked with the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
The University cherishes these links as they add to professional and academic development.
As A Category Public enterprise, EMCU receives funding for operational costs from the government of Eswatini through subventions. Although not sufficient to adequately cover the operational costs, the subvention to EMCU has been steadily increasing. Whilst this assistance is highly appreciated, the release of the subvention to the institution is in most instances delayed and as a result the untimely release of the money has a negative impact on the operations of the University. EMCU’s progammes are mostly laboratory based and teaching and learning materials such as chemical reagents for use in the laboratories during practical training are seriously compromised.
After a very long period of waiting, a qualified Bursar has been employed. The Bursar’s presence will enhance the degree of confidence in the financial management and financial statements of the university. To date, the Bursar has facilitated the submission of audited financial reports for the period covering three years i.e 2016, 2017 and 2018. Preparation for the periods 2019 and 2020 financial statements is in progress.
Following requisite approvals from Government structures and successful negotiations with the staff union, the University has now been able to introduce a proper and transparent salary structure, Terms and Conditions of Service and letters of appointment to all staff. This is a notable development that forms a sound foundation for employer-employee relations. Our gratitude goes to the Ministry of Education and Training for supporting the University in this initiative.
Looking to the Future
As we look to the future, our focus is geared towards delivering on the mandate given by the founders of the University that we be ranked among the best universities in training health professionals.
It is our hope that the medical school which has been on our Agenda for years will become a reality in 2021.
Preparations for the opening of the Faculty of Medicine are in the final stages. A Review Panel of the Eswatini Higher Education Council will meet with the EMCU Management around the 15th – 16th December 2020 to finalize discussions on the matter. All required classrooms, equipment, laboratories and a library for use by the Medical School are in place. Professors to lecture have been identified. I have no doubt that this development will enhance the image of the University.
In conclusion, and on behalf of Management and the Senate, I would like to thank the Council for allowing us to play a role in the leadership of the University.