Hope for lost ‘graduates’

Hope for lost ‘graduates’

MASERU – CASWELL Mabe, 30, is struggling to feed his family.
Despite that he has only two children and a wife working at a textile factory in Maseru, Mabe says sometimes they depend on handouts from neighbours.
Unlike his wife who only did primary school, Mabe has a Form E certificate and is fluent in both written and spoken English and Sesotho.
His main economic activity to support his family is to sell airtime and items such as sweets and potato chips while his wife works in the factories.
“When I was in school as a boy my parents used to say I would be employed and earn a lot of money but now look where I am,” Mabe says.

“I am not qualified to go to any university because of my low grades and I don’t think I am employable anywhere,” he says.
“I grew up looking after my father’s livestock after school hours and on weekends and therefore I do not have any skill other than looking after livestock.”
The livestock was stolen some years ago in his home district of Thaba-Tseka, and he had to come to Maseru to look for a job after completing high school.
Mabe says he sometimes gets temporary jobs as an unskilled labourer in small construction companies.

Mabe says if given an opportunity, he could welcome training in any practical skill such as carpentry or bricklaying.
His cousin, Lebohang Mabe, holds a Junior Certificate and is a taxi driver.
“I joined the taxi industry at the age of 17 years, some seven years ago, and I think I am content with what I have. This is because I have no other skill other than driving a car,” Lebohang says.
“I cannot build a house, am not a carpenter, a plumber, nothing. I am a driver and when my door breaks I call a carpenter to fix it,” he says.
The two cousins say they have never heard of any school that can offer training for them at an affordable fee.

“I need just a little training so that I can be employable or start my own workshop,” Mabe says, adding: “It is embarrassing that I depend on my wife for everything.”
The experiences of the Mabe brothers epitomize the macro-economic situation in Lesotho where one third of the adult population is said to be unemployed, according to the 2016 country Economy Review.

This is because, according to the 2018 Transformation Index BTI Report, Lesotho had a “very low human development index of 0.497” in 2014 thus making it rank 161 out of 188 countries.
In 2016, according to the same report, 77.3 percent of the Basotho population lived below the poverty line.
More than half of Basotho are subsistence farmers, according to the report.

Moorosi Mokuena, Head of Programmes at the Lesotho Opportunities Industrialisation Centre (LOIC), believes the status quo could be reversed if Basotho were to raise their level of appreciation of blue collar jobs. His school, LOIC, has been giving hope to those hopeless Basotho for years.

Copying from Reverend Leon Sullivan and his fellow black ministers who started Opportunities Industrial Centres (OIC) in America in the 1960s, Lesotho started its own in 1973.
The dream of the OIC founders was to start an indigenous programme for the disadvantaged on a grassroots basis and they started it in an abandoned jailhouse in the heart of the North Philadelphia Black Community.

OICs offer marketable skills such as welding, power sewing teletype operation, electronics, chemical analysis and key punch operation to secondary school drop-outs.
There are more than 115 OICs located throughout the United States, Africa, Latin Africa and the Caribbean.
The interest in establishing the LOIC began in 1973 when government officials from Lesotho visited the OIC International located in Philadelphia.
Mokuena says the LOIC was meant for school leavers when it started in the 1970s.

The programme is now fully functioning and has been accorded recognition by the government of Lesotho as the only training institution addressing the needs of primary school graduates.
Mokuena says several features make LOIC a ‘‘unique institutional body – it is a community based institution and non-traditional in its approach to training”.
“It offers free access to Vocational and Entrepreneurial Training and Management Development (ETMD) skills to the economically disadvantaged sector of the Basotho population,’’ Mokuena says.
He says ‘‘skills training is offered to Junior Certificate holders in the areas of Bricklaying and masonry, Carpentry and joinery, combination of Plumbing technology and tiling, Electrical installation with Solar Energy Technology and Welding and Boiler making”.

“There is also Computer Appreciation for all, except those with prior qualification. Standard Seven and Junior Certificate holders receive training in Foremanship, ETMD.’’
He says the plumbing and welding programme was divided into two courses.
The new course, Welding and Boiler-making, was introduced ‘‘because we wanted the available programmes to respond to the needs and not only put ourselves in line with what was taught when the school was founded yet it is no longer beneficial.’’

Although LOIC accepts learners who did Standard 7, it differs when it comes to electrical installation and boiler-making as it strictly wants those who did Form C.
‘‘This is because these courses require special knowledge,’’ he says.

Mokuena says he would encourage youths to enroll with LOIC as the country is desperately in need of skilled citizens – most skills are imported.
‘‘Enrolling here would help them to attain skills that would be very helpful after completion as they will be able to start their own businesses and not seek jobs,” Mokuena says.
“This will also improve the country’s economy,’’ he adds.

He says LOIC’s biggest strength is that ‘‘it deals with raw learners whom most if not all institutions do not consider – the hopeless”.
“We do our magic to turn them into something good. We produce an artisan who works with crafts.’’

Mokuena says the major challenges they encounter, considering students’ entry level, is that of learners who hardly understand what they are taught and that they cannot write in English.
‘‘Both the (students with) standard seven and form C (certificates) study in one class hence their levels of understanding differ,’’ he says.
He says they empower teachers not to give up regardless of the situation of having to teach students of different levels in one room.
‘‘They do help us to find different ways of approaching those learners.’’

‘‘Also, BEDCO does help us teach them entrepreneurship and cooperatives so as to have sustainable businesses.’’
“LOIC believes that every man and woman should be given a chance to help himself and it aims to train and retrain thousands of individuals with untapped talents and unknown skills who are either unemployed or underemployed,’’ Mokuena says.

‘‘Commitments and dedication to the self-help concept, with emphasis on training for jobs are primary requisites for trainees and staff.’’
“Man in his infinite variety should be treated with respect – his dignity ought not to be violated because of his appearance, personal history or present condition.’’
LOIC currently has 201 students between the age of 16 and 35 in different categories and 10 teachers in five departments.

LOIC offers a certificate after two years of study and internship for those who study electrical and solar.
LOIC’s Executive Director, Motloang Letete, says the school is mandated to ‘‘provide technical and vocational education and training for the most educationally and economically disadvantaged Basotho youths and the labour force’’.
‘‘We want excellent, transparent and accountable organization which addresses poverty alleviation and meets our customer satisfaction,’’ Letete says.

’Mapule Motsopa

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