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THE World Bank has approved US$25 million (approximately M374 million) for a project that will help Lesotho support its teachers and improve the learning environment in rural schools.

This will lift Lesotho’s efforts to deliver better quality education and stop its children from dropping out of school.

The fund was approved on Wednesday last week to support Lesotho’s Education Quality for Equality Project (EQEP).

The EQEP will target 300 of the poorest-performing primary schools and 65 junior secondary schools in rural areas.

In total, 84 500 students are expected to benefit from the project, which will last for five years to 2021.

Beneficiaries are expected to be schools in hard to reach areas where the geography makes it difficult for the students to work to their full capacity.

Such schools include Boribeng Primary and High Schools in Leribe.

Boribeng is cuddled on the slope of the Boribeng Plateau in Leribe, a rural village known better for traditional initiation schools and early marriages.

To reach to Boribeng, one has to endure the discomfort of a short but meandering rocky gravel road from the Main North 1 Road in the direction of Butha-Buthe.

It was only six years ago when this village managed to register a student at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) and last year they had enrolled six.

The Boribeng High School improved its teaching when a private company, Thaba-Bosiu Risk Solutions, introduced academic excellence competitions among students six years ago.

Another such school is the Liqoabing Primary School in Rothe, one of the poor rural villages of Maseru district.

Half of the school’s pupils have been taught under the tree for the past 50 years because there were no classrooms while the other half was taught in a church until last year when the Lesotho Revenue Authority built six classrooms as a donation to the school.

The school is situated in a rural area, southern part of the constituency, but not far away from the Maseru City – some 35 kilometres south of the city.

The school and the church serve communities from five villages surrounding Liqoabing.

Such projects are in line with the World Bank Group’s strategic goals of supporting the most vulnerable and poor by eliminating extreme poverty and boosting the incomes of the poor, according to the World Bank.

“We welcome the World Bank funding for our project. It will go a long way towards helping us achieve our goals to lift Basotho out of poverty by creating a literate youth population who have a firm foundation in numeracy and reasoning skills, especially in our rural areas where we have seen a consistent trend of student dropouts,” the Minister of EducationDr. Mahali Phamotse said.

The objective of the new project is to improve basic education service delivery and student retention in targeted schools.

Basotho students’ level of learning in primary school is the third lowest in the southern African region.

The quality is equally low at the junior secondary level where only one-fifth of students pass Mathematics and Science in the end-cycle examination.

In addition, only about 62 percent of the cohort that enters Grade 1 completes primary and only 42 percent completes junior secondary school.

This is despite high public spending in education.

“Raising the quality of basic education is crucial to giving the Basotho youth a strong foundation for further skills development and improving their ability to participate more productively in the economy,” the World Bank Country Director for Lesotho, GuangZhe Chen said.

“With this project we will also help the Lesotho education system to groom, support and manage its teachers, which is critical to raising the quality of education,” he said.

The project will be based on three complimentary components: first, improving the teaching and learning environment; second, strengthening accountability for student learning and retention; and the last strengthening institutional capacity.

One of the innovative approaches brought in this new project is the empowerment of key actors at the school level, including school principals, teachers, school boards and local communities.

A new model for teaching mathematics and science will also be piloted in some junior secondary schools. – part of the article was published by The Financial.




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LEC to switch off households over debts



MASERU – The Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) will from Tuesday next week begin switching off clients who owe it money.

The LEC issued a seven-day ultimatum to all customers who owe it on Tuesday last week. The deadline ends on Monday.

It is expected that the LEC will begin switching off households that have defaulted.

The state-owned power company, however, is not going to touch any government department or business entities that owe it on grounds that they are in payment negotiations.

The LEC move comes barely two weeks after it cut electricity supplies to the Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) thus causing it to fail to pump water to communities countrywide for more than two days.

The LEC says it is owed close to M200 million by government departments, businesses and individuals.

The LEC spokesman, Tšepang Ledia, told thepost that the government and the businesses will not have their electricity cut because they are in negotiations.

“We are in negotiations with the government and businesses and hopefully they will pay,” Ledia said.

“We advise the ordinary people to pay their debts before the 20th of March 2023 or else we cut the services,” he said.

The LEC says it is running short of funds for its daily operations.

In December last year the company increased power tariffs by 7.9 percent on both energy and maximum demand charges across all customer categories for the Financial Year 2022/23.

Last week the LEC boss, Mohato Seleke, said postpaid consumers and sundry debtors owe the company M169.4 million.

He said unless the debtors pay he will be unable to buy electricity from ’Muela Hydropower Project, Eskom in South Africa and Mozambique’s EDM.

This, he said, could cause serious load shedding in the country and could be devastating for businesses.

Seleke said the LEC spends M630 million monthly to buy electricity.

“If postpaid consumers do not settle their debts this could prevent the LEC from being able to buy electricity which can lead the country to encounter load-shedding,” Seleke said.

Seleke said collecting debt from government department ministries was a challenge as there is an understanding that since LEC is a state-owned company, it will continue supplying government agencies with electricity and they will settle their bills when they have funds to do so.

Seleke said the LEC has lost M21 million to vandalism during this financial year.

Relebohile Tšepe

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Bumper payout for former mineworkers



MASERU – AT least 11 316 current as well as former mine workers are set for a bumper payout after Tshiamiso Trust began disbursing the first billion Maloti to workers who are suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis.

The payment comes two years after Tshiamiso Trust began processing claims for the historical M5 billion settlement agreement between mineworkers and six gold mines in South Africa.

Speaking at the payment announcement in Maseru last week, the Trust’s CEO, Lusanda Jiya, said it has been two years since they officially began accepting claims.

“Our people come to work every day with the mission of impacting lives for the better, and the first billion rand paid out to over 11 000 families is just the beginning,” Jiya said.

“We know that there is no compensation that will ever be enough to undo the suffering endured by mine workers and their families,” he said.

“However, we are committed to deliver our mandate and ensure that every family that is eligible for compensation receives it.”

Jiya said the Trust is limited both in terms of the time in which they can operate, and the extent to which they can assist those seeking compensation.

Broadly speaking, the eligibility criteria include among others that the mineworker must have worked at one of the qualifying gold mines between March 12, 1965 and December 10, 2019.

Secondly, living mineworkers must have permanent lung damage from silicosis or TB and deceased mine workers representatives must have evidence that proves that they (the deceased) died from TB or Silicosis.

Tshiamiso Trust has a lifespan of 12 years, ending in February 2031.

Over 111 000 claims have been received to date, through offices in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, eSwatini, and Mozambique.

The Trust is working with stakeholders in these countries and others to mobilise its efforts and expand operations.

The history of silicosis in South Africa goes back to the late 1880’s when the first gold mines began operations.

The gold was stored and locked in quartz, a special rock that contains large amounts of silica.

Crystallised silica particles can cause serious respiratory damage if inhaled.

In the earlier days of gold mining, dust control, health and safety standards and the use of PPE (personal protective equipment) were not as advanced as they are today.

Tshiamiso Trust was established in 2020 to give effect to the settlement agreement reached between six mining companies.

The companies are African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American South Africa, AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony Gold, Sibanye Stillwater and Gold Fields.

The settlement agreement was reached and made after a ruling by the Johannesburg High Court as a result of a historic class action by former and current mineworkers against the six gold mines.

Justice for Miners is a coalition of interested parties in the mining sector launched at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg in 2020.

The Johannesburg High Court approved the setting up of the Tshiamiso Trust to facilitate payment by the companies to affected miners.

Keith Chapatarongo

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Farmers cry over cost of livestock feed



MASERU – Lehlohonolo Mokhethi is a farmer who has been running a successful poultry business, thanks to a small loan he got from a local bank.

He now has 300 chickens.

He says his vision is to rear 5 000 chickens by 2025 and employ 30 youths. But he is now grappling with a new challenge: the ever increasing cost of chicken feed.

That is threatening the viability of his business.

“The biggest challenge is that food prices increase every day, feeding is expensive,” Mokhethi said.

“It is quite difficult to make profit in business if each and every day food prices increase. Today I am buying a bag of food with a certain amount then the next day the price has increased,” he says.

“Our customers fail dismally to understand that food has increased and the Chinese are taking our market because they sell at a low price thus I run at a loss.”

Last week, a top attorney in Maseru who is also a prominent farmer, Tiisetso Sello-Mafatle, called a meeting for farmers to discuss these challenges.

She says the government must regulate the prices of livestock feed.

That is critical if the farming business is to succeed, she says.

Attorney Sello-Mafatle says farmers must come up with a structure for livestock feed prices which they would present to the government for gazetting.

“We should state our regulations and give them to the government to make everything easy for both parties because we cannot wait for the government to make regulations for us,” Sello-Mafatle says.

She adds that “farmers should be bullish about what they want and never have fear endorsing new things”.

“I will not be challenged or cry (because of) what life throws at me but I will cry when things are not happening the right way,” she says.

Mafatle says farmers need to know who they are and know the capabilities they have.

“This will help a farmer in becoming the best in any field they are in once they are confident about themselves,” she says.

Karabo Lijo, another participant, said they have to influence the cost of inputs in agriculture, especially livestock feed.

“We have to go back to cost-price analysis where as farmers we are able to derive the selling price and the break-even point in our production,” Lijo said.

“We can also derive the stable or constant mark-ups on our products,” he said.

“We need to do research to increase the ability to produce byproducts which are likely to have the longest shelve life,” he said.

The meeting urged farmers to diversify their products by introducing such things as mushroom farming. They said mushrooms can grow very well in Lesotho due to its favourable climate.

The farmers also demanded that there should be regulations on how land can be sold or borrowed in Lesotho.

Tholoana Lesenya and Alice Samuel

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