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Fighting teen pregnancies



QUTHING – Boring!

That’s how some students at some schools reacted to the introduction of the Lifeskills Based Sexuality Education (LBSE) subject in 2013.

Recently, thepost visited some of the schools in the company of the LBSE advocacy partner, Help Lesotho, to find out if attitudes towards the subject have changed over the years.

At ’Maseribane High School and Holy Trinity it appears the children’s attitude towards the subject has totally changed.

Thanks to Help Lesotho, the introduction of clubs at five schools through the support of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the LBSE is bearing fruits in schools in Quthing.

Cases of Early and Unintended Pregnancies (EUP) have dropped, while students are relating well to the subject and feel it is changing their lives for the better.

Tšepiso (whose real name will not be mentioned to protect her identity), a Grade 11 student at ’Maseribane High School, said she has been doing the subject since Grade Eight.

“It was only last year when clubs were introduced that I found it enjoyable,” Tšepiso said.

“I previously only attended it for grades and I was uncomfortable to open up to my teachers and classmates about sexual intercourse, afraid that they would say I was sexually active,” she said.

The 17-year-old Tšepiso confided to thepost that she is actually sexually active and uses contraceptives to avoid pregnancy.

She however declined to talk about the kind of contraceptives she uses.

“Most of us teenagers fail to abstain so we were taught about ways to protect ourselves such as contraceptives usage,” she said.

They were also introduced to other forms of sex acts that do not require penetration.

She called on her peers to join the clubs as they are crucial in giving out correct information that teenagers are in dire need of to make informed decisions.

She further appealed to life skills teachers to employ methods used by peer educators to effectively get the attention of teenagers.

“They should be honest with us and give us direct information instead of using words that hide real meanings because that makes us lose the moral of the topic,” she said.

“They are still old school and they have to work on that to ease their job.”

She said she shares the knowledge she gains from the club with her classmates when she sees that their teacher is afraid or is hesitant to talk about the issues.

“My classmates sometimes laugh but that doesn’t bother me because what I say is correct and will help them at some point in their lives. It hurts to see my schoolmates getting pregnant, hence I made it my job to teach others.”

Lerato, 14, of Holy Trinity described the subject as “life-changing”.

“Before joining the club, I didn’t relate with the subject and I lacked confidence. I didn’t make the right choices as my friends literally made choices for me,” Lerato said.

She said she got attached to the abstinence topic because she watched in pain as her peers got pregnant at a young age.

“But with abstinence, I now know how to dodge the pregnancy bullet,” she said.

“I wish we could all join the club as our peer educators are very friendly to us. We are able to open up with them unlike with our teachers as they are old fashioned.”

’Maseribane High School’s Life Skills-Based Sexuality Education teacher, ’Mamotlatsi Mpasi, said she was assigned to teach the subject without any training.

Mpasi, who is also a Sesotho and English teacher, said “most activities are learner centered and needed an experienced teacher”.

“Sometimes it gets tricky when I am not familiar with the content. It’s an open discussion that needs me to think on my feet,” she said.

Holy Trinity LBSE Teacher, Mokoebetane Pomela, said “it isn’t easy” to teach the subject as some children laugh while others express shock when he delivers the content.

“I wasn’t sure what their reaction meant but now there is a huge difference as they understand the subject and relate to real life situations and examples,” Pomela said.

However, he shared similar sentiments about lack of resources to teach the subject.

“As a teacher I have to find ways to teach children without up to date teaching aides, although it seems to be working as EUP (Early and Unwanted Pregnancies) cases are no longer as prevalent.”

’Maseribane High School Deputy Principal, Motonosi Tikoane, said the introduction of LBSE has brought positive change amongst students.

“We had a high pregnancy rate and after its introduction in 2019 we saw a drastic change. We had over 30 learners pregnant around 2017 and this year we only have one,” Tikoane said.

He said street vendors, taxi drivers and conductors contributed to children’s pregnancies as they target school children for sex.

He said some teachers were trained even though it was late but “it’s better than nothing”.

“We don’t have a perfect teacher regarding the subject as they too learn along with children.”

The school has 650 pupils and 37 teachers and only five of them were trained to teach the subject.

“However, boys’ approach towards girls has changed for the better after the introduction of the subject as they no longer beat girls,” he said.

Sexuality education is explained by officials as the provision of scientifically accurate, culturally and age appropriate knowledge and skills relating to children’s healthy development and their sexuality.

Sexuality is said to be much more than sexual intercourse as it is about one’s body image, gender, biological changes, relationships and include all the thoughts, feelings, and behaviours of males and females.

Themes across the curriculum for skills development and change of behaviour are: knowing one-self and living with others, human rights and child protection, gender norms and equality, sexual and reproductive health, HIV & AIDS, STIs and drug and alcohol abuse.

The main challenges that led to the introduction of LBSE were EUP, child marriage and new HIV infections.

In Lesotho, the incidences of child marriages stand at 24 percent, according to the 2016 Lesotho Census report.

Six out of ten girls aged between 15 and 19 years are mothers or pregnant with their first child, according to the UNFPA’s 2021 report.

According to a 2017 UNESCO report, Lesotho is among countries with high rates of early and unintended pregnancies. The report shows that 60 percent of girls between 15 and 19-years are mothers or pregnant with their first children.

In 2017, UNESCO conducted an assessment that revealed that 12 to14-year-olds are initiating sexual activities.

Data from School Report Cards (SCR) collected from schools participating in the School Improvement Project (SIP) indicates that pregnancy and early marriage are the number one reason for girls dropping out of secondary school at 46.7 percent in 2018 and 45.7 percent in 2019.

The adolescent birth rate in Lesotho is reported to be high at 94 per 1 000 girls aged 15-19, according to the UNFPA’s 2003-2018 study.

According to the Lephia 2020 statistics, 80 percent of new infections are recorded among young women aged 15-34 and the largest number of new infections (29 percent) occur among women who had never married.

Uncircumcised men who never married contributed 26 percent of new infections, while 13.5 percent of new infections occurred among couples with a male partner of positive status.

Stakeholders say contributing factors are poverty and vulnerability, peer pressure and lack of correct knowledge about sexuality issues.

It has also been discovered that myths, misconceptions and misinformation lead them into unacceptable behaviour.

Most adolescents, SIP discovered, lacked refusal skills, self-value, confidence, peer pressure resistance and decision making, need for belonging, forced marriages and intergenerational relationships to mention a few.

Masoabisa Monaheng of Help Lesotho said the EUP project started in 2020 but it was fully implemented in 2021 partnering with five schools: Holy Trinity, Sebapala, Masitise, Mopeli and ‘Maseribane high schools.

“Research by the Ministry of Education and Training showed that Quthing had high cases of teenage pregnancy therefore, we wanted to change that for children to fully reach their potential,” Monaheng said.

“The clubs have been well received by pupils as they freely open up to their peer educators as they relate well with their problem,” she said.

“We have noticed that club members are able to make informed decisions especially when it comes to peer pressure.”

An Education Inspector in Quthing, Lebohang Kala, said when the subject was first introduced in schools, it was challenging as there were no teachers for it.

“It is still a challenge even now as the subject is a taboo…teachers are still afraid to discuss the subject with children,” Kala said.

“Fortunately, with the help of UNFPA and Help Lesotho, training (programmes) were done on this subject’s content for teachers to be able to deal with behavioural change without imposing their values on pupils,” he said, adding: “It is still a challenge but I see light at the end of the tunnel.”

“We still have challenges but there is a slight difference especially in Mount-Moorosi, ’Maseribane High School.”

The Ministry of Health’s Adolescent Health Programme Manager, ’Mathato Nkuatsana, said the ministry has a comprehensive sex education curriculum which it runs in schools countrywide.

Nkuatsana said the ministry also has adolescent health corners at district level that offer friendly services to adolescents without being judgmental.

Nkuatsana said the ministry ensures that their services are multi-sectoral because there are so many contributing factors that lead to teenage pregnancy.

Help Lesotho is a non-profit organisation registered in both Canada and Lesotho that delivers grassroots mental health support and training programmes in rural communities in Lesotho to deal with AIDS, poverty, unemployment and gender-inequity.

’Mapule Motsopa

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MP defies party, backs opposition



MOHLOMINYANE Tota, the only MP for the United for Change (UFC), has defied the party’s order to stop voting with the opposition in parliament.
Tota, the UFC’s deputy leader, told thepost this week that he will vote, guided by his own conscience, and not the party’s instructions.

His defiance comes after the party publicly chastised him for voting with the opposition in parliament.
A fightnight ago, Tota angered his party when he sided with the opposition to vote against the government’s motion to continue discussing the reforms’ Omnibus Bill despite that it was being challenged in the Constitutional Court.

The government however won with 57 votes against the opposition’s 50.
The UFC issued a statement reprimanding Tota for defying its decision to always vote with the government.
But Tota told thepost this week that he was unfazed by the party’s warning.

“I will continue to vote with the opposition where need be, and I will also vote with the government where need be,” Tota said.
He said he respects the party’s position but “I also have a right to follow my conscience”.

This, he added, is because “it is not mandatory for an MP to toe the party line even when his conscience does not allow it”.
He said whether he will vote with the government or the opposition will depend “on the issue on the table”.
He said his conscience would not allow him to vote with the government on the Omnibus Bill motion.

“It was wrong,” Tota said.
“I will do the same again given another chance.”

Tota’s response comes three days after the UFC issued a statement distancing itself from his stance in parliament.
The party said its national executive committee had an urgent meeting over the weekend to discuss Tota’s behaviour.
It said its position is to always support Prime Minister Sam Matekane’s coalition government.

“‘The issue has caused a lot of confusion in the party and among Basotho at large,” the statement reads.

The party also said Tota did not bother to inform the national executive committee about his decision so that he could get a new mandate.

“He did not even inform the committee before voting,” the statement reads.
“The national executive committee held an intensive meeting with Tota about the matter because the purpose of the party is to support the government,” it reads.
The UFC said where the government goes wrong “the party will continue to confront it with peace and not with a fight” (sic).

“We have confidence in the current government because it was voted in by Basotho.”
The UFC’s statement makes it clear that the party “will not support anything against the government”.

Nkheli Liphoto

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Inside plot to oust Matekane



THE plot to topple Prime Minister Sam Matekane thickened this week amid allegations of brazen vote-buying ahead of the opposition’s planned vote of no-confidence.

The opposition is said to be ready to push out Matekane when parliament reopens sometime in September. They accuse Matekane’s government of incompetence, nepotism, corruption and using the security forces to harass opposition MPs.

But as the lobbying and touting of MPs reaches fever pitch, there are now allegations of each side using bribes to secure votes crucial in the vote to remove the government.
Democratic Congress leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, this week accused the government of bribing its MPs to defeat the motion against Matekane.

Mokhothu, who made the allegations at the opposition’s press conference yesterdday, did not give further details or names of those bribed and those bribing.
But on Monday, the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MP, Puseletso Lejone, told thepost that Mokhothu offered him a M2.2 million bribe to support the opposition’s motion to upend the government.

Lejone said Mokhothu made the offer at a secret meeting, attended by almost all opposition leaders on August 14, at Monyane Moleleki’s house in Qoatsaneng.
The Thaba Moea MP said the leaders claimed that 60 MPs were supporting the motion against Matekane and wanted his vote to make it 61.

“The money was to come directly from Mokhothu,” Lejone said.
“They asked me to provide them with my bank account so that they could transfer the money.”
Mokhuthu denied the allegations, saying he wondered if Lejone “was smoking socks”.

Lejone repeated the same allegations on the sidelines of yesterday’s press conference where Matekane assured Basotho that his government has enough numbers to fend off the opposition’s attempt to push him out.
He said apart from Moleleki and Mokhothu, other political leaders who attended the meeting were Lekhetho Rakuoane, Machesetsa Mofomobe, Nkaku Kabi, Professor Nqosa Mahao, Teboho Mojapela, Tefo Mapesela and Tšepo Lipholo.

He said the leaders gave him a document showing that six RFP MPs had pledged to support the vote of no confidence. Lejone however refused to name the RFP MPs, saying he still wants them to remain in the ruling party.
He said four MPs from parties in the RFP-led coalition had signed.

They are Mohlominyane Tota (UFC), Reverend Paul Masiu (BAENA), Mokoto Hloaele (AD) and Motlalepula Khahloe (MEC).
The deal, Lejone said, was that Mokhutho would become prime minister and be deputised by Dr Mahali Phamotse.
He said the RFP’s faction was going to be rewarded with 10 ministerial seats for their role in toppling Matekane.
Nearly all the political leaders mentioned by Lejone denied attending the meeting at Moleleki’s house.

“By the living God, I have never been in a meeting with that man (Lejone),” Mokhothu said, adding that Lejone’s allegations are “defamatory”.

Mahao said he last visited Moleleki’s house, which is up the road from his, 22 years ago. Mofomobe said Lejone is lying about the meeting because he wants to curry favour with Matekane, whom he had been criticising for months.
Mofomobe said all his meetings with Lejone were at the BNP Centre and their agenda was toppling Matekane.

“We were discussing his (Matekane) incapability to rule this country,” Mofomobe said.

Rakuoane and Mapesela said they have never been to Moleleki’s house.
So did Kabi who implied that Lejone could have smoked something intoxicating “to talk about a meeting that never happened”.
Lipholo, Rev Masiu, and Tota said they were not at that meeting while Moleleki said he had “no comment”.

Staff Reporter

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Matekane abusing state agencies, says opposition



THE opposition has accused the government of weaponising security agencies to harass and intimidate their MPs.
The accusations come as the opposition plots to push a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Sam Matekane when parliament re-opens in September.

Opposition leaders told a press conference yesterday that the government has resorted to using the army and the police against its MPs because it is afraid of the motion.
Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said the security bosses have been willing tools for the government because their bosses are desperate for Matekane to renew their employment contracts.

He was talking about Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli, army boss Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela and National Security Service (NSS) boss Pheello Ralenkoane.

“Employment contracts for the security agencies’ bosses are the ones causing these problems because the commanders end up working towards pleasing the government for their contract extension,” Mokhothu said.

He said the army has also started setting up roadblocks closer to parliament to search MPs. Mokhothu said the army searched Nkaku Kabi and Advocate Lebohang Maema KC at the parliament premises last week.

“The government is now bringing back the security agencies into party politics,” Mokhothu said.
“This was the first time the army entered the parliament premises to search members and other people there. It is an embarrassment.”
“The responsibility of our soldiers is to guard the borders and ensure security, not to enter politics or set up roadblocks on the parliament roads.”
“They are now running the country like a shop or a company.”

Basotho National Party leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe, alleged that Matekane had a meeting with the security bosses in Teya-teyaneng to discuss how they could use their institutions to clip the opposition’s wings.

“The LDF, LMPS and NSS boss’s contracts have expired, and now they are using the institution to get extensions,” Mofomobe said.
“The LDF and LMPS are doing this deliberately to protect the government.”
thepost could not independently verify this allegation.

Tefo Mapesela, the Basotho Progressive Party leader, said Matekane’s government is taking Lesotho back to 2014 when the army was wooed into politics.
He warned that officers who allow themselves to be used as pawns in political fights might find themselves in jail while their political handlers enjoy freedom.
He referred to Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli who has been in remand prison for seven years as he faces charges of murder, attempted murder and treason.
Mapesela however said the opposition will not be intimidated because it is their democratic right to bring a motion of no confidence against the government.

“When there is time to enter a motion of no confidence it is time, it is written in the law, there is nothing wrong there,” Mapesela said.
“I once launched a motion of no confidence in the previous parliament, but I was never arrested or threatened.”

“We do not owe Matekane anything. When the time has come he has to go. We will lobby others as it is not a crime.”

The Basotho Action Party’s Nqosa Mahao criticised the police for issuing a press statement with political undertones.

In a controversial statement last week, Commissioner Molibeli said the police were aware that some MPs were coercing their colleagues to support their plot to topple the government.
Molibeli also said they were aware that such MPs were surrounding themselves with armed groups.

“Police warn those perpetrating these acts to stop immediately to avoid action that could be taken to protect the country,” Molibeli said.

Matekane made the same allegations at his press conference yesterday.
Professor Mahao said the statement shows that the police have now been entangled in politics.

“Every time parties experience internal problems the leaders conspire with the security agencies,” he said.
“The opposition leaders are now being harassed because the government wants to stop them from exercising their rights.”

The opposition’s charge sheet against Matekane

  •  Filling of statutory positions despite the reforms aiming to change the system.
  • Corruption
  • Nepotism
  • Using security agencies to deter MPs from ousting Matekane.
  • Job losses.
  • Lack of job creation.
  • Failure to fulfil campaign promises.
  • Protecting mining companies’ interests at the expense of Basotho.
  • Incompetence and lack of communication skills.
  • Arrest of MPs by the police.
  • Cherry-picking reforms that insulate his government.

Staff Reporter

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