A new breed of graduate

A new breed of graduate

MASERU – LEBOHANG Seitlheko is dying to enroll at university and study agricultural science.
But that dream seems in smoke due to a combination of poor English and Mathematics grades and poverty. So, for now, he has to look for a job – any job – to make that dream come true.
The 22-year-old only managed to sit for his final exams at Thabeng High School last year with the hope of attaining grades that would enable him to proceed to an institution of higher learning.
He flunked both English and Mathematics, prerequisite subjects to be admitted into institutions of higher learning.
That has not broken his desire to go back to school. Poverty is becoming the biggest hindrance though.

Coming from a poor family in the mountainous region of Marakabei, Seitlheko is unable to raise enough money to return to the classroom and rewrite the subjects he failed.
“If only I can go back to school, sit for another exam and pass and go to university, I believe my future will be bright. With hard work in the class, I think I can make it,” Seitlheko says.
“The greatest challenge I have now is that I do not have any money to pay my school fees. I am now looking for a job so that I can raise some money for my schooling.”
Seitlheko is one of thousands of Basotho students who performed poorly in Mathematics, English and Sesotho in Form E final exams last year, which made them ineligible for admission in higher learning institutions.

Aware of the impediment created by this, the government in 2009 introduced a new curriculum and assessment policy which aims to make access to higher education depend on performance in subjects in which they perform best. Seitlheko does not know his strengths yet, perhaps because the new assessment policy was not fully understood by most teachers in the country.
This policy aims at creating opportunities for all learners to follow different career paths in tertiary institutions even if they did not meet the requirements of group examinations such as passing English.

It is used for diagnosis of learning difficulties and to monitor performance of learners. It emerged at a workshop last week that most teachers are yet to fully comprehend how to implement the new policy, leaving learners such as Seitlheko in the cold. Experts at the workshop said the policy’s implementation aims to create opportunities by incorporating practical skills that cannot be adequately assessed by pen and paper examinations.

They said it is also likely to bring about quality in the teaching and learning processes through adaptation of instructional processes to meet the needs of individual learners.
They argue that the policy implementation will need the Examination Council of Lesotho (ECOL) to shift focus from examination to assessment.

This will require the renaming of ECOL to reflect its new role of providing assessment that facilitates students’ learning, rather than focusing more on examination measurement.
The workshop shared the construction of Grade 8 curriculum materials with the aim to redress concerns that were raised by both the public and teachers through various platforms.
Education Minister Professor Ntoi Rapapa said the 2009 Curriculum and Assessment Policy was premised on the vision to ensure syllabus relevance and reaction to individuals and communal needs as reflected in its blueprint.

‘‘It came as a result of the realisation that there is a dire need to reform our education system to cater for the needs of the individual learners, to equip them with the 21st century knowledge, skills and expertise as well as capacitating them to live meaningful lives for both their nation and the global community,’’ Rapapa said.
He said ‘‘these attributes were built on the accumulated successes of our education for the past 52 years of independence’’.
‘‘The policy represents another milestone in our education system that envisions a new breed of graduates that comprise more of entrepreneurs, job creators than job seekers in the next hundred years of Lesotho’s independence,’’ he added.

Rapapa assured stakeholders that there was enough political will to achieve desired results.
‘‘It is expected that in early 2019 in January, the revised curriculum is going to be rolled out country wide,’’ Rapapa specified.
“If things go well ‘both NUL and LCE institutions can become the continuous developers of the teachers,” said Rapapa.

“This means that during the holidays, teachers should be trained to build their capacity. We have learnt, realised and accepted that education sector is denied justice when it comes to money allocations. It doesn’t matter which primary, secondary, institution of higher learning or ECCD School one is allocated to. It is in rare cases that one will see a good number of teachers, availability of necessary resources and materials,’’ he reiterated.

Rapapa indicated that ‘‘the number of unemployed teachers is very low compared to the number of teachers needed. There are a number of schools which still have one to two teachers.’’
Money was the biggest challenge, he said.
’Mabakubung Seutloali, CEO of Secondary Education, said the workshop was meant to let the ministry give Grade 8 teachers a proper roll-out training which ought to happen between December and January next year.

She said the Curriculum Assessment Policy (CAP) was a result of the national dialogue held in 1978 by Basotho, which was followed by the 2006 national dialogue, both which influenced the Education Sector Strategic Plan (ESSP) 2005-2015. ‘‘When we started the implementation of CAP, some people perceived it as the ministry’s apprehension alone and some went to the extent of rejecting it which brought about tensions within the ministry, within the participating departments and other people outside the ministry,” she said.

“Some relegated it and we were so humiliated. It had not been easy to implement the policy of Social Development,’’ she said.
She however stated that in the midst of all the Curriculum Assessment (CA) department continued creating awareness through various radio stations within the country, press conferences, meetings with teachers’ formations and principals associations.

The National University of Lesotho (NUL) and the Lesotho College of Education (LCE) got involved in different forums with the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) and ECOL to deal with the issues of pedagogy while the District Resource Teachers (DRTs) and Inspectors in the district were sensitised.
‘‘But even today, there are still some people who still believe that we did not do enough,’’ Seutloali said.
She also raised the issue of funding.

‘‘The budget had always been the main challenge, as it unfolded the issue of Pupil Teacher Ratio (PTR) became explicit but the ministry’s hands were held tight by the budget to avail grants,” said Seutloali. “The concept of no pass, no fail became an issue of concern as it was not properly disseminated or handled and those who were ill-informed decided to use it as a weapon to downgrade the current education reforms,” she said. “The days that were allocated to train teachers and inspectors were not enough, but the little the ministry had was used to accommodate all and sundry.’’

’Mapule Motsopa

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