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World Bank praises Lesotho’s social protection policies

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MASERU – AT least 49.7 percent of Lesotho’s population lives below the national poverty line with about a quarter of the population living in extreme poverty.
That is according to a World Bank report released this week. It is entitled, Lesotho: social protection programmes and system review.
The report assesses the performance of Lesotho’s social protection policies and programmes.

The report says 994 000 people are living below the poverty line with a further 484 000 living in extreme poverty.
“Therefore, one million Basotho do not live at a basic level of consumption sufficient to easily weather shocks, and half a million live at an extreme level of vulnerability,” it says.

The report said poverty is “geographically differentiated” in Lesotho.
It said 80 percent of Lesotho poor and 84 percent of the extremely poor live in rural areas where they face higher risks of being in poverty.
But beyond the geographical factors, other factors also played a part.
“The larger the size of the household, the greater the likelihood of poverty, with a two person household poverty incidence of 28.3 percent versus 67.1 percent for households of seven or more. Households with three children have a poverty rate of 71.6 percent,” the report said.

Married and divorced households also had rates of poverty at 46 percent.
“Female-headed households have a 10 percentage point higher poverty rate than their male headed counterparts.”
It said the higher poverty rates in rural areas largely reflect the reliance on small-holder agriculture in Lesotho.

As the country continues to face weak growth and limited fiscal resources further constrained by the economic shocks of the Covid-19 pandemic, strong effective social protection programmes are needed to help protect vulnerable people and ensure that they can meet their basic needs.
The report acknowledges Lesotho’s progress to establish safety net systems and programmes and suggests a selected range of policy options to increase fiscal savings and improve the coverage and effectiveness of the programmes.

“This report will help inform the design and implementation of our social protection programmes and policies to ensure that they are efficient and equitable,” said Matebatso Doti, Minister of Social Development for Lesotho.
“It will also help us improve the efficiency gains of existing programmes to allow us to fund more programmes such as the disability and infant grants.”
Lesotho has made significant investments in developing social protection programmes over the last 20 years.

The country’s social protection programmes tackle vulnerabilities throughout the life cycle from children to the elderly.
However current programmes are costly with social protection spending representing about 6.4%of gross domestic product (GDP) making Lesotho the highest spender among any African country.

The review found that while several social assistance programmes in Lesotho are effective in reducing poverty, they have low cost-effectiveness and poor targeting with a large share of the support going to the non-poor.
The operational systems used to deliver the programmes remain largely manual and have leakages which impact the efficiency of the programmes.
Simulations show that if programmes such as tertiary bursaries were retained only for poorer students with savings reallocated to a transfer targeted to poorer households, the national poverty rate could be reduced by 3.2 percentage points at the food poverty line.

“It is our hope that this research will enhance policies to ensure that the important investments the government is already making in social protection will help to break the cycle of poverty for the next generation, keep children healthy and in school, and help households transition from social grants for their livelihoods to more sustainable income generating opportunities,” said Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank Country Director for South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Eswatini.

The report suggests that the government reviews the allocation of spending across social protection programmes with the aim of improving value for money while enhancing their benefits for the recipients.
It suggests scaling and re-allocating social protection spending towards poverty-targeted programmes such as the child grant programme whose total costs account for only 0.15 percent of GDP.

It also suggests improving social protection systems by shifting payments from cash to digital payments and introducing “Cash Plus” measures to link beneficiaries to productive activities, and link child grants to better investments in human capital.

Staff Reporter

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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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