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Examining why people stutter



ROMA – Stuttering is a common speech disorder that we rarely talk about.

Maky Bridget Letsie, a National University of Lesotho (NUL) graduate, says she has always been fascinated by why people stutter.

As a student at the NUL, she wanted to closely understand stutterers so she could educate people to treat them with respect.

In her research, she made captivating observations about stuttering which she said is often defined as, “a speech disorder in which the flow of speech is (marked by) involuntary repetitions and prolongations of sounds, syllables, words and phrases.”

She first made an observation that people stutter when they speak but when they sing, stuttering disappears.

Also, she has always suspected that stuttering had something to do with breathing rates.

So from mild stutterers to severe ones, she wanted to understand them.

A number of things motivated her to study stutterers.

“First I am a mild stutterer myself,” she says.

In fact, according to her, most people become mild stutterers now and then, depending on the situation.

Have you noticed that?

“Second, both my mom and gradma are mild stutterers,” she says.

“Worse still, my gradma had a child who couldn’t speak.”

All these things instilled in her, a passion to learn more about speech disorders, and after she did a course in psychology of language at the NUL, stuttering became an obvious target.

“My studies came in two versions,” she says.

“First I made a pre-study on how stutterers’ breathing rates varied when they were talking and when they were singing.”

She wanted to have a taste of what to expect, hence a pre-study.

After silently observing a number of stutterers among her peers at the NUL for some time, she cautiously approached them to find out if they could be willing to participate in her study.

Some refused, of course.

Others thought it was no big deal and they participated.

But she had no tools so she improvised, at least after consulting with scholars in the NUL’s Faculty of Health.

She asked the stutterers to sing and to talk as she captured their breathing rates in a video during the processes.

She would later meticulously observe the breathing cycles against time during both singing and talking on the videos.

“I saw a big difference. When they sang, stutterers had lower breathing rates than when they talked. But my methods were rudimentary.”

So she moved into a full study.

Again she enlisted willing participants who were stutterers on the condition that they remained anonymous.

She didn’t even know some of them herself.

This time she had to be a bit more scientific, so she needed to use a scientific machine – electrocardiogram.

She was introduced to this machine at St Joseph’s Hospital in Roma.

One kind doctor helped her with the understanding of how to use the machine.

Using this complex machine, she did not measure breathing rates directly but used extrapolations from heartbeats to breathing rates.

“The results were still the same after this study, breathing rates were higher in speaking than in singing and the stuttering was barely noted when singing compared to when speaking,” Letsie says.

“Of course the breathing rate phenomena could be extended to people without a stuttering problem. People generally breathe slowly when they sing.”

As she combed through literature and compared it with what she was learning, she discovered a few interesting things.

It turns out an average person has two ways of breathing, a normal breathing and the kind of breathing one experiences after an activity such as running.

Stutterers, she found out, were more inclined to adopt the latter breathing tendency under normal conditions.

But there is something more she learned about the role of breathing.

“When you sing, even if you still produce the same words you use in talking, singing tends to be slower, more relaxed than talking,” she revealed.

“Take for instance, when you are singing a national anthem and when you are just speaking the words in the anthem. You are more likely to finish faster when speaking than when singing the same flow of words.”

So why is her study worth a big note?

First of all, although some people have severe stuttering, a problem which is often associated with genetic inheritance, stuttering is common even on people who are not necessarily known as stutterers.

Even worse, such mild stuttering can happen in awkward times such as when one is giving a presentation, in which case some are anxious and breath faster.

While Letsie is the first to admit that she is no speech therapist, she feels that from this study, she learned that relaxing, slowing down and breathing slowly could be one of the ways to control stuttering although the degree of control will always depend on the severity of the problem.

But, “in the end, I just wanted to bring some public attention to stuttering, the problem we rarely give attention to,” says the NUL trained linguist.

Own Correspondent

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Short courses for ex-mineworkers



THE Lesotho Diamond Academy has introduced mining short courses, particularly to ex-mineworkers, to help them re-enter the mining sector.
The Essential Introductory Courses, which will run for two weeks, will start from June this year. The courses are meant particularly for people who worked in mines in South Africa.

The Academy’s CEO, Relebohile Molefe, unveiled the new courses during the graduation of 18 students last week, four of whom are now armed with Cutting and Polishing certificates while 14 graduated with Rough Diamond Evaluation certificates.

The new courses include the Essential Certificate in Diamond Grading and the Essential Certificate in Diamond Evaluation.

“The decision to offer these courses aligns with the Academy’s dedication to bridge the gap and ensure that individuals with valuable experience can seamlessly reintegrate into the diamond and jewelry industry,” Molefe said.

“By providing short courses, the academy does not only impart essential skills but also contributes to the sector’s growth by reactivating experienced individuals who had lost access to the industry due to no formal documents showing their experience in the industry,’’ she said.

During the graduation celebration, Molefe also unveiled a new sponsorship programme for various courses.

One outstanding student previously sponsored, who demonstrated exceptional proficiency in Rough Diamond Evaluation, was granted a fully funded bursary to further his studies into Advanced Certificate in Round Diamond Brilliantering.

In pursuit of its multifaceted objectives, one of which is to serve as a catalyst for employers in the diamond and jewelry sector to devise skills development strategies, the Academy is set to sponsor four additional students in the upcoming intake starting from February 15.

Two of these bursaries will afford a 30 percent discount on overall fees for two students progressing from Cutting and Polishing to advanced studies in Rough Diamond Evaluation.

Two will be fully funded bursaries to study for a Certificate in Diamond Cutting and Polishing.

Additionally, the institution will extend two fully funded bursaries to the public, fostering inclusivity and expanding opportunities.

The Academy says it plans to announce the search for two deserving Basotho individuals on its social media pages and website.

“Importantly, the bursary programme bears no age restrictions, reflecting a commitment to fairness and inclusiveness, ensuring that opportunities are accessible to all, irrespective of age,” it says in a statement.

The Academy says it seeks “to be a dynamic force in shaping the industry, not just within national borders, but also on regional and international platforms”.

“The emphasis on competitiveness within these markets underscores the institution’s commitment to producing graduates who are not only proficient but also globally competitive,” the statement reads.

“The recent graduation ceremony symbolises a milestone in the Academy’s journey. The success of its students is a testament to the quality of education and the foresight embedded in the curriculum.”

The Academy says its decision to sponsor further education for outstanding performers reflects a belief in nurturing talent and contributing to the continuous improvement of the diamond industry.

The Lesotho Diamond Academy was founded by the late Mpalipali Molefe, a prominent educator, diamond trader and an MP, who recognised the imperative to elevate professionalism in the diamond industry.

Staff Reporter

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Bank hands over uniforms to students



THE Lesotho Post Bank donated uniforms to students at Leqele High School worth a staggering M60 000 as part of its Back-To-School campaign.
The bank said it did this “to keep needy children in school and to promote their education”.

A teacher at the school, Tšepo Semethe, said the uniforms will likely motivate the students to work harder in their studies.

Semethe insisted on giving the bank the names of the students so that it could check their performance at the end of the year.

“At Leqele High School, we work very hard because what we want is excellence above all. To us, hard work pays,” he said.

The bank’s Chief Risk Officer, Molefi Khama, said they are getting old, they will soon retire and Lesotho Post Bank will be in the hands of these children.

He pleaded with the students to work harder.

“This is why we decided to come here to support the students in their education so that when coming to school, they should be confident,” Khama said.

“We are watching you and waiting on you,” he said.

The school’s head prefect, Tholoana Monatsi, said from now on, “no student will be identified by what they wear”.

“(Lesotho) Post Bank made us one and we thank them for that because what we wear cannot stand before our education. We indeed thank you and forever you will hold special places in our hearts,” she said.

A parent, ’Marorisang Latela, said they were very grateful for the gift from Lesotho Post Bank adding that they must also donate to other schools.

Minister of Trade, Mokethi Shelile, promised to go back to the school to discuss how the children could learn in comfortable surroundings.

Relebohile Tšepe


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Mamello School of Special Needs wins prize



MAMELLO School of Special Needs is the first-place winner of Standard Lesotho Bank’s Scaled-Up Pitching Den held at Maseru Avani on Tuesday.
The school has secured a grand prize for an all-expenses-paid trip to Kenya to participate as a finalist representing Lesotho at the Standard Bank Africa Awards.

The school, pioneered in 2020 during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic through Zoom classes, deals with children who live with conditions such as autism, attachment disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) dyslexia, Down syndrome and slow learners.

STKTM Solutions claimed the second-place spot, receiving a commendable M10 000, while Masia Farms secured third place and a M5 000 prize.

Pheello Masia of Masia Farms, thanked Standard Lesotho Bank for backing their vision and that of other Basotho entrepreneurs.

He acknowledged that the bank’s faith in their endeavours serves as a source of inspiration, propelling them to work harder and foster growth within the community.

The event, aimed at fortifying support and fostering regional integration for Basotho entrepreneurs across the African continent, showcased the bank’s commitment to driving the growth of Lesotho.

Malatola Phothane, Head of Enterprise Banking at Standard Lesotho Bank, set the tone in his welcoming remarks.

“As Standard Lesotho Bank, through business and commercial banking, we strive to turn possibilities into opportunities,” Phothane said.

“Lesotho is our home, and we drive her growth,” he said.

His words resonated with the bank’s dedication to nurturing local talent and fostering economic development.

Phothane acknowledged the eight finalists, commending them for their resilience and passion for their businesses.

He emphasised how each entrepreneur had stood their ground, displaying knowledge and unwavering commitment.

The recognition not only highlighted the achievements of the finalists but also underscored the bank’s role in recognising and uplifting the entrepreneurial spirit within the community.

Aliciah Motšoane, founder of Prestige Furnitures and Sentebale Gap Funeral Services, played a significant role at the event as a motivational speaker, sharing her entrepreneurial journey filled with challenges and triumphs.

She recounted her humble beginnings when she was selling bread in high school, leading to the establishment of Prestige Furnitures in 1998.

Despite facing a significant setback after her shop was burnt down during the riots and incurring a loss of M5 million, Motšoane never gave up.

She said business is always a demanding endeavour adding that it needs hard work and a unique mindset.

She urged entrepreneurs to embrace their roots, seek inspiration, and persevere through challenges.

The keynote speaker, the bank’s Head of Business and Commercial Clients, Keketso Makara, said the bank is committed to foster a thriving business environment, highlighting the pivotal role of youth collaboration across diverse economic sectors.

Makara said their mandate aims to empower youths in steering the private sector towards growth, contributing to economic diversification.

Makara urged the eight finalists to actively involve bankers in refining their proposals for maximum impact on economic stimulation and sustainable development.

The bank said the Scaled-Up Pitching Den not only served as a stage for entrepreneurs to present their ventures but also acted as a driving force for networking, collaboration, and collective empowerment.

Staff Reporter


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