Only 62 percent finish school

Only 62 percent finish school

Rose Moremoholo

Maseru – OUT of all the students who start Grade One in Lesotho, only 62 percent go on to complete their primary education.

That is according to the Director of Education Planning in the Ministry of Education Lephoto Moeti.

Moeti made the remarks at the launch of a M375 million project to improve the quality of education in Lesotho’s schools last week.

The project is being run by the Ministry of Education and World Bank.

The project, which will run for the next five years, also aims at improving the teaching and learning environment, strengthening school accountability for students’ learning and retention and institutional capacity.

The project will address some of the issues that affect education in the country such as high repetition and high dropout leading to poor retention rates, low student learning outcomes and low accountability.

Titled the Lesotho Education Quality for Equality Project (LEQE), it seeks to benefit at least 53 000 students from 312 primary schools, 12 000 students in 65 junior secondary schools in the same catchment areas as primary, 1 400 primary teachers, 200 junior secondary teachers, 100 district resource teachers, subject advisers and inspectors as well as 377 school boards which are the lowest performing primary schools in Lesotho.

Moeti said the challenges of education in Lesotho are broad and have escalated over the past years.

He said despite the introduction of free education for all in primary schools for Basotho children, there are still children who drop out of school before they complete Grade Seven.

“The concept of free primary education has not achieved what it was planned to achieve because the outcome of primary students having completed Grade Seven is still low,” Moeti said.

He said despite 95.5 percent access to Grade One only 62 percent of students go on to complete primary school.

“This problem of retention continues into secondary school where retention rates are 75 percent in junior secondary and 80 percent in senior secondary,” Moeti said.

He said the low performing schools are mostly in the mountainous districts of Lesotho which are Thaba-Tseka, Quthing and Mokhotlong where the proportion of children not entering school is much higher at 7.6 percent, 7.7 percent and 9.9 percent respectively.

Males in Quthing and Thaba-Tseka are particularly at a disadvantage with 11 percent of boys not having access to schooling in both districts.

Moeti said although Lesotho spends 8.4 percent of its GDP on education, “which is the highest among 16 southern African countries” its efficiency of resource utilisation in the education sector is low.

The Country Representative at the World Bank, Janet Entwistle, said the LEQE is a result of a joint effort between the Ministry of Education and the World Bank and collaboration between stakeholders.

“This project is key to helping the government to improve the effectiveness of the public sector,” Entwistle said.

The project was evaluated in February, negotiated in April, approved by the board in May and declared effective in July.

“Within three months of its effectiveness, the project has reached 11.6 percent disbursement ratio above the country’s portfolio of 7.9 percent. This shows that the project, young as it is in the portfolio, has started with a bang,” Entwistle said.

Entwistle said this will be through a combination of teachers training, investments at the school level with community participation, changes in teaching Math and Science, support to education planning and support to fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic through education in secondary schools.

“Five years down the road, we all want to be proud to have contributed to a positive change for children, teachers and entire basic education systems. As such, the government has committed to monitoring two sets of indicators,” Entwistle said.

The two sets of indicators are the improvement of teacher content knowledge and the reduction in the dropout rate both in primary and junior secondary schools.

Entwistle said the ultimate results on the ground are what will count.

The Minister of Education, Mahali Phamotse, said “we should all take up the task and make this project a success”.

“It is long overdue that we work diligently to work on our education,” Phamotse said.

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