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Setting pace for ‘future energy’

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ROMA – THE National University of Lesotho (NUL) beat tens of scientific institutions from all over the world and won a prize in the area of “Future Energy” at the BIE-Cosmos Expo 2017. The expo was held in Kazakhstan.

NUL demonstrated an innovative unconventional solar energy system that clearly caught everyone by surprise, Anadola Tšiu the brains behind the system, says.  When it all started, the odds were clearly stacked against the school in the Roma Valley.
Tšiu was coming face to face with brilliant scientists from all over the world who gathered at the expo in Kazakhstan, showcasing their innovations in a rigorous competition that would last three months.

In the end, it was the most unlikely that happened—lots and lots of institutions were eliminated, leaving just six competitors including the NUL among them. That was good enough. But then, NUL went on to deliver a lasting blow, crushing the last five competitors and emerging as the sole winner.
History had been made!
No doubt you don’t believe us—do you?
We don’t blame you—Tšiu did not believe it either.
“Frankly, when I looked at the projects the NUL was up against, I had already given up, so I couldn’t believe it when I saw we were number one!” he says.

Well, this sounds more like a story of David and Goliath— how else do you explain how poorly resourced NUL scientists stood their ground up against the best in the world in the area of Future Energy Technologies?
It’s called innovation!

But just as the story of David and Goliath is a true story, so is the story of NUL beating the world’s best at the glitzy international expo in Kazakhstan!
The story goes like this:

NUL, along with other institutions from Lesotho attended the internationally acclaimed expo, alongside institutions from numerous countries.
But, as usual, NUL was there for a different purpose altogether—it was there for a kill.
Of course this is not the first time!

You might remember Tšiu outmaneuvered scientists from all over the world about a year ago and won a second prize in Germany, coming second only to Canada. That system was focused mainly on solving the problems of energy for the poor in electricity-starved rural Lesotho.
“Kazakhstan was different,” Tšiu says.

“This time, the idea was to come up with a system that would solve energy problems, not only for rural Lesotho, but for all, hence the theme Energy for All,” he says.
That is, the system had to be good for the rural poor in the South as it was for the urban rich in the North.
It had to be just as good for households as it would be for large industries.
Let us, for a minute, quote from the horses’ mouth in Kazakhstan.

Dimitri Kerkentzes, Deputy Secretary General of the BIE, showed that NUL project was “a concrete example of the core values of both Expo 2017 Astana and Expo ’90, to promote sustainability and environmental protection”.
Shinya Kubota of the Expo ’90 Foundation states: “The National University of Lesotho’s project fully embodies the harmonious coexistence of nature and mankind, the fundamental principle of the Expo ’90 Foundation.”
What is it about this system that has caught the attention of the world’s brightest?
Remember the basics of solar water heaters.

They are made such that they capture the sun’s energy and store it in water, producing water circulation in the absence of electricity.
“But our solar water heater system is a bit more advanced, actually it offers three in one,” Tšiu says.
“It offers traditional water heating for general uses, it offers space heating which includes under-floor heating and wall radiation and it can even generate electricity using smart little known Organic Rankine Cycle technology,” he says.
Of interest is the system’s ability to use Organic Rankine Cycle technology.

In this case, “we heat water first, and the water in turn transfers its heat to a refrigerant, which, upon evaporation, drives a turbine, producing electricity,” he says. It works much like a good old steam engine except that in his view, “steam engines were notorious for losing energy into the atmosphere while our system conserves as much of the energy as possible”.
This is how.

Once the refrigerant has been used to produce electricity, it is again cooled. It is cooled with water and the water in turn gets warm (ever heard of heat-exchange?). “Here is the beauty of our system, we don’t throw away that warm water, we use it to warm buildings,” he says.
Thus they save every “iota” of energy!

And they recycle the refrigerant. But why not just use the famous photovoltaic solar cells?
In cold countries like Lesotho and especially Kazakhstan, solar energy can be very elusive in winter, necessitating the use of numerous batteries with poor life span.

“In our case,” Tšiu says, “we store our energy in water in the tanks— tanks are our batteries.”
“Plus tanks are low cost, and they endure for a lifetime.”

Own Correspondent

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Short courses for ex-mineworkers

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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

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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

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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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