Trapped in the clutches of poverty

Trapped in the clutches of poverty

LERIBE – The migrant workers who used to oil Boribeng village with South African rands are growing old – and the village is reeling.
For some children, education could be the escape route. For adults, it means finding fresh revenue streams.
Poverty has become such a major problem in Boribeng that many villagers are being forced to trek to South Africa and other districts to survive. Those left behind are settling for agriculture amid financial problems and a drought.

Boribeng is cuddled on the slope of the Boribeng Plateu in Leribe. To reach this village, one has to endure the discomfort of a short but meandering rocky gravel road from the Main North 1 Road in the direction of Butha-buthe.
The village chief of Boribeng, Chief Thakabanna Maraisane, said the village has not encountered such levels of poverty before because local men working in South African mines used to provide for those back home.
But like all good things, it is coming to an end as less money is finding its way from South African mines to the village.

According to Chief Maraisane, many of the providers have aged while others were retrenched from the mines and returned home.
This has hit the pockets of villagers hard, said the chief, adding that the village has not encountered such poverty levels before.
Many have been forced into lifestyle changes, such as taking to agriculture for survival.
“Since then, agriculture has been the primary means of survival in this village,” he said, although most are still struggling to adapt.
Chief Maraisane said due to financial problems and drought, many villagers did not plant anything in their fields.
He said out of 250 villagers, only 10 managed to harvest crops from their fields.

In this village, animals graze on dry pastures that have no grass left.
Some fields are dry and barren. A few show signs of recent harvests.
The high rate of unemployment and low literacy rates worsened the situation, said Chief Maraisane.
“Most people have gone to South Africa and other villages to work for basic survival,” he said.

Chief Maraisane said a few others have left for the mines in South Africa. The majority, he said, are women seeking work as maids in South Africa.
He said a few have gone to work in the factories in Maputsoe and in Maseru.
But it’s not all bleak.
To improve education levels in the village, Thaba-Bosiu Risks Solutions has introduced academic excellence competitions among students.
As a result of the programme, more than 10 students have recently enrolled at tertiary institutions.

The Principal of Boribeng High School, Khabele Khabele, said poverty is one of the factors contributing to the low education levels in this village.
He said 40 percent of Boribeng High School students are facing poverty and that influences their educational attainment.
“Some even choose to drop out of school,” Khabele said.
Khabele said they know of some poor students who resort to romantic affairs with older men to get money to survive.
“We even have cases of students who drop out of school to live with those men in other districts like Maseru,” he said.

This year alone, six students got married and two of them did not come back when schools re-opened after winter.
To help poor students survive, Thaba-Bosiu Risks Solutions has decided to sponsor some Form C and E students.
The company also gave some groceries to poor students during their annual academic awards last Saturday.

A Grade 8 student, Nkhahle Seshophe, was one of the students who received groceries and he also won the best overall performance award.
Nkhahle’s grandmother, ’Malebohang Lekhoaba, said she is happy that her grandson takes his studies seriously despite the poverty the family is facing.
Lekhoaba said Nkhahle’s mother left him some years ago claiming she had found a job in South Africa.

They have not heard from her or received a penny from her since.
Lekhoaba said now she is struggling to give a better life to Nkhahle and his three siblings who are still in primary school.
She said she sells traditional beer for a living.
“When the customers are not enough, we sometimes go to bed on empty stomachs,” she said.

Lekhoaba said she is grateful to Thaba-Bosiu Risks Solutions for giving Nkhahle some groceries, which will last “some months”.
Nkhahle said he hopes to use education to escape from the clutches of poverty. And he seems serious. During the last exams, he scored an impressive overall mark of 85 percent.
He said the teachers even suspected that he had cheated.
“That is because I got 100 percent in science,” he said.
The school does not even have a science lab to conduct practicals but that did not deter Nkhahle.
Nkhahle said he is grateful to have won the award, and it will motivate him to work harder.

The Managing Director of Thaba-Bosiu Risks Solutions, ’Matokelo Seturumane, said students should work hard to succeed in life.
“Success does not just happen, it is the result of hard work,” she said.
Seturumane said the students should not give up on their studies because of failure.
She said failure is only for a short period of time and it serves as a stepping stone for success.

’Makhotso Rakotsoane


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