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Vodacom Foundation hands assistive devices to centre

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BUTHA-BUTHE – THE Vodacom Lesotho Foundation (VLF) last Friday injected over M80 000 to help Thuso e Tla Tsoa Kae Centre in Butha-Buthe- the centre that helps children with intellectual disabilities

The Foundation gave out 20 tablets fitted with special software which enables the students with various intellectual conditions to communicate effectively. The devices further allow them to access information digitally.

The equipment was meant for children with autism, cerebral palsy, spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, and communication disorder.

The principal of the centre, ’Mamonuku Mofilikoane, said the centre also received special equipment which includes non-verbal student devices.

“It’s a tab which allows a student to tap on a picture, and the sound would come out,” she said.

Mofilikoane said there is also a mathematical tablet which assists disabled students, especially those with autism, with calculations.

There is a switch device which assists non-verbal students to communicate with others and the teachers as well. The school further received M23 000 worth of tablet devices.

Mofilikoane said the tablets have software which allows them to record all the students’ information in case they go missing. With just a tab, a student can be able to communicate with a person they meet.

Mofilikoane said they also have apps in the tablet which allow students to match words according to their understanding.

“We believe the autistic students have their own intelligence which is beyond our understanding,” she said.

She said it has been a long journey of struggle to get to a common understanding with these students because they want to do things the way they understand, which is different from others.

Once enrolled with the centre, students needed training to use the devices. Mofilikoane said the Vodacom Foundation then hosted a workshop where a speech therapist was invited to train the teachers and students.

She said the equipment is the voice of their students and it will be used effectively in the learning process. She said they are now seeking to provide training to guardians so that students could further use the equipment even when they are at home.

Head of Regulatory and External Affairs at Vodacom Lesotho, Tšepo Ntaopane, said their mandate is to provide everyone with good quality education with the technology that they have.

After taking part in several projects involving disabled people, they thought about what they could do with their technology to assist children with different kinds of disability.

They then realised that people living with disabilities are intelligent. Ntaopane said these people need to be understood and given some support so that they can reach their full potential.

He said they noticed that there is a need for assistive equipment devices for children living with disability. He said they further provided free internet to the centre.

“We want them to access the same education like everybody else,” Ntaopane said.

Their mandate is to roll out this programme to other districts so that all the disabled people can access education. The Executive Director of the Lesotho National Federation of the Disabled (LNFOD), Advocate Nkhasi Sefuthi, said Vodacom has served as an example to assist people living with disability.

“This contribution does not only enhance the livelihood of those students but it further makes a contribution in the education sector,” Adv Sefuthi said.

He said children living with disability are the most neglected groups in society. He said this assistive devices will help them to live a normal life like others. The donated equipment, Adv Sefuthi said, will help reduce the stigma in the community for children living with disability.

He said what Vodacom has done is an investment to the future of these students. Speaking on behalf of the Managing Director of Vodacom Lesotho, Liphethiso Mahanetsa, said their purpose is to connect to the near future. Mahanetsa said they have aligned with their purpose to change the life of these students.

She said this is the responsibility of every company to assist vulnerable people. ’Makutloano ’Nehi, speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Education, said their mandate is to push for inclusive education. She said the devices will eliminate barriers to education.

Refiloe Mpobole

 

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Vodacom gives to schools

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MASERU – FIVE schools in Malea-Lea area in Mafeteng received a gift of 20 computers from the Vodacom Lesotho Foundation last Friday.

Vodacom Lesotho has also provided the schools with free unlimited internet as part of its corporate social responsibility.

The company also donated a fully furnished computer laboratory worth M1.2 million, including solar energy to the Malea-Lea community in Mafeteng.

The computer lab will serve Malea-Lea Primary, Litšokeleng Primary, Makhetheng Primary and Botšoela Primary Schools as well as Malea-lea Secondary School.

The principal for Malea-Lea Secondary School, ’Masechaba Sekhesa, said computer studies are in their syllabus and this donation will help the teachers and students to access technology which will in turn improve their education and attract more sponsors in their schools.

“These will also encourage the communities to stop taking their children to schools outside Malea-Lea,” Sekhesa said.

“This will increase the number of students in our schools,” she said.

The Principal of Makhetheng Primary School, Thato Phethoka, said lack of computers has not only affected students’ education but also the teachers who had to spend their money to deliver education. He said in 2020, Covid-19 pandemic knocked them down even more.

He said after the lockdown was introduced in schools, education moved to digital platforms.

“In the absence of electricity in the community coupled with high unemployment which hinders parents from buying phones for their children, we had to find a way to deliver education,” Phethoka said.

“Teachers were forced by circumstances to use their own funds to buy data to do the research and download materials through their phones,” he said.

He said for an average class of 26 students, teachers had to spend their money to print the assignments for students which would cost M2 per copy.

Phethoka said even the computer centre present in Malea-Lea is a one hour walk away which discouraged students.

However, he said the presence of this new facility would help teachers and students to access the internet and research to improve education which is a 30 minutes’ walk from their school.

The Director of Malea-Lea Development Trust Fund, Khotso Au, said they only had 20 computers.

Au said in a day they would have more than 25 students and due to the shortage of computers, some would have to share.

He said the other challenge was that the facility had to buy contract data of 400 GB which cost M1 900.

He said although the facility has donors, it was still challenging to take out that huge sum of money since they also have other projects.

He said the schools’ performance has been bad and this discourages donors since they have to submit reports on students they are sponsoring.

He said he believes the presence of these new computers and access to the internet will help the students to access the internet for research and improve the education in the area.

Vodacom Lesotho’s corporate affairs executive head, Tšepo Ntaopane, said they had provided solar energy to help power the computers. They will also provide the schools with free data.

“We are seeking to give away other computers in other schools and communities to ensure that every Mosotho has access to technology,” Ntaopane said.

“We want to build a technology driven economy,” he said, adding that they are “willing to take out what we have to assist Basotho”.

Refiloe Mpobole

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New mobile filling stations on the cards

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MASERU – THE Petroleum Fund has introduced mobile filling stations that have a higher life span.

The new filling stations have a life span of more than 50 years compared to traditional filling stations that have a life span of around 15 years, according to the Petroleum Fund’s Public Relations Officer (PRO), Rorisang Mahlo,

Mahlo said the outstanding features of this new investment include a petroleum tank which is stored in fabricated containers, unlike the traditional filling stations where the petroleum tank is underground.

“This exposure to more chemical reactions shortens the life span,” Mahlo said.

Mahlo said the mobile filling stations are also covered with layers which include the ordinary layer and upper layer which is resistant to fire.

“This makes them more advantageous than the traditional ones,” he said.

He said the traditional filling stations come in one size while the mobile filling stations come in various sizes which make them more business viable and flexible.

In his welcoming remarks, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Petroleum Fund, Thato Mohasoa, said the major objective of the institution is to ensure security supply of petroleum products in the country.

He said they are expected to facilitate the improvement of the distribution and accessibility of those products throughout the country.

Mohasoa said the Petroleum Fund realised that there was a need to assess the extent of the supply shortage of petroleum products in the country.

He said one of the projects that were recommended for consideration were the Mobile Filling Stations in underserviced and remote parts of the country.

He said the mobile filling station is intended to create opportunities for investment and jobs for local people while ensuring the security of supply of petroleum products in the country. He said this will in turn stimulate the country’s economy.

The Operations Manager at Petroleum Fund, Lebohang Makhoali, said the petroleum sector’s needs analysis was completed in 2020 to identify gaps within the Petroleum Fund mandate. Amongst others, a mobile filling station project was recommended.

He said the mobile filling station will increase local ownership and assist in building local capacity and training of local entrepreneurs. He said the estimated capital required to establish a mobile filling station in these sites range from M1.2 million to M1.7 million.

He said this entails the facility infrastructure, a fuel management system and a payment system. Makhoali said these filling stations are best investments for highlands and rural parts of Lesotho since they will not compete with the existing traditional filling stations as a set radius will be determined.

“It is a low investment expenditure compared to a traditional filling station,” he said.

The Petroleum Fund Officer ’Makhauta Fosa said once the policies and regulatory frameworks have been formulated, the companies will be issued with business licenses. However, he said an applicant must have business registration documents as issued by the Registrar of Businesses in Lesotho.

She said before the construction can start, applicants must have a building permit and apply for the certificate of occupancy as the construction continues. Fosa said an applicant must have a supply contract with a licensed oil company.

“A filling station is not allowed to have more than one supplier,’’ she said.

An applicant must submit a written application for a trading licence to the Department of Energy.

Refiloe Mpobole

 

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MMB workers down tools

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MASERU – WORKERS at the Maluti Mountain Brewery (MMB) downed tools from Monday this week demanding a 20 percent raise on their salaries.

The MMB’s legal officer, ’Mapulumo Mosisili, however insisted that the strike will not affect the company’s daily operations.

Mosisili said they had “already put in place measures to continue with our job smoothly”.

“We are doing our best to ensure that the strike does not affect us,” Mosisili said.

She said the process started through the Wages Board in August where they tried to explain the company’s financial situation to the workers.

“But it is their right to strike,” Mosisili said. She said the 20 percent increment the workers are demanding is not affordable because “everything has become expensive now, like water and electricity”.

The company had promised a 4.6% salary increment but the workers opposed the proposal

She said no company has given the employees a salary rise above the inflation rate due to a lack of finances.

The MMB workers launched their strike by blocking the company’s gates with trucks and singing protest songs.

One of the songs they were signing while holding their placards says Mona ha rea tlela masaoana, which translates to “We are not here for fun”.

Their placards were written Ha re batle 4.6% e nyane, which translates to “We do not want 4.6% increment because it is too
little”.

Another was written Re kopa moputso o phelisang which translates to, “We are asking for enough salaries to earn a living”.

One of the workers, Mohafa Malefane, said the prices of basic commodities have increased which requires that workers get enough salaries for them to cope.

“He (the employer) says he will offer only 4.6 percent, we do not want that, it is not enough,” Malefane said.

Malefane said they ended up striking because their employer has clarified that he will not give them the 20 percent they are demanding.

He added that last year they received a four percent salary increment.

“It was still below the inflation rate as it was seven percent then,” he said.

He said the striking departments include brewing, packaging, logistics, and utilities.

“It’s just that some workers in the distribution department have turned their backs on us, they are busy working now,” he said.

The employees’ representative, Fokothi Thite, told thepost that the lowest-earning employee gets M2 000.

“If they add their 4.6 percent it will make a difference of only M80. We will not allow that,” Thite said.

He stated that at least the 20 percent they propose will raise their salary from M2 000 to M2 400.

“The salaries we are paid here are spent on transport to bring us to work and take us back to our homes, and nothing else,” he
said.

He also said they approached the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Reconciliation (DDPR) and their management to fix the matter “but no one listened”.

“We will stand here and sing until 2023.”

Nkheli Liphoto

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