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Questions over education curriculum

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SECONDARY education curriculum stakeholders have questioned the government’s wisdom in constantly changing the national curriculum.
Stakeholders were speaking at the Fifth Education Symposium with the theme: “The Implementation of the Lesotho Revised Education Curriculum”.

The symposium, which was held in Maseru last Friday, was organised by Soofia International School.

They observed that the constant change in the Lesotho education system in recent years has left many questioning the future of the present students and the generations that will come after.
Soofia International School principal, Vijayakumar Bhaskaran, said the major concern is “the role of education as a safeguard for Lesotho and its people in an era of unparalleled change and unforeseen possibilities”.

The issues brought by the reduced years of study in secondary education from the normal five years that comprised five stages from Form A to E to the new four-year system were at the centre of the symposium.
Initially, the motion to phase out the five-year schooling system was put into practice in the country in 2021.
The purpose was to “increase the standard of education, for students following the academic stream to create opportunities for entrance into universities in the region and internationally”.

Speaking at the symposium, a National University of Lesotho (NUL) academic, Dr Thabiso Nyabanyaba, raised the question: “Should the present state of the reform made to secondary education remain?”
When the new four-year curriculum was introduced, it was meant to be piloted in a few schools that offered boarding facilities.
Among them were Soofia International School, Lesotho-China Fellowship Collegiate, and Lesotho High School, and only the latter offered boarding facilities to its students.

The first step of the initiative had failed at the get-go but the Ministry of Education saw no fault in that and so the programme was spread all across the country.
When the new education sector plan was introduced in 2021, the main aim was to produce a generation that would be able to study beyond the borders without any struggles.

It was meant to respond to the country’s economy positively, and be competitive in the world of work by providing programmes that are locally and internationally recognised.

However, Bhaskaran observed that “completing high school education in only four years of post-primary does not prepare students’ adequately”.
“It could mean a compromised foundation for higher education and a limitation on the student’s global competitiveness”, Bhaskaran said, and this is south of what the new system was implemented to do.

“This in the long run will not only hamper individual opportunities but will also hinder the country’s progress in terms of reaching its goals,” he said.
Dr Nyabanyaba said when the new curricula are introduced, after the first step which is the initiation step that comprises assessment and mobilising resources, schools and all involved stakeholders have to design action plans, carry them out and maintain commitment.
These two steps, he said, are very crucial to make the initiative work and the third step is to keep improving the teaching techniques and evaluating the programmes while also staying committed to making it work.

Many academics had argued that the core curriculum reform of 1974 was organised with a strong focus on English, Mathematics, and Science as its essential subjects.
But, they lamented, that the Lesotho General Certificate of Secondary Education (LGCSE)’s implementation “raised a lot of concerns about its relevance and quality”.
It was criticised for promoting colonialism by mimicking the features of the British GSCE, which was meant for basic education in the United Kingdom.
The symposium discussed the Advanced Subsidiary (AS), Advanced Level, LGCSE, and the phased out Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (COSC).
Some said the new basic education curriculum of 2021, which is the implementation of AS-Level, “is clouded by several issues”.

Some of these issues include restricted access that is a result of financial barriers for many students, according to Dr Nyabanyaba.
Bhaskaran seconded this by saying “a significant portion of our populace, lacking such financial means…remains ignorant of the disparity in the provision or quality of education”.

“All charge fees (for AS-level) range from M15 000 to M26 000 (for public schools), excluding hidden costs,” Dr Nyabanyaba said.
“This is not a problem for individuals from more affluent backgrounds”, and so the question is: What are those from humble backgrounds expected to do to have access to quality education?
AS (Advanced Subsidiary) and A (Advanced) level qualifications focus on traditional study skills.

AS normally forms the first year of the course and is a qualification in its own right, but together with A-level, famously referred to as A2, forms a complete A-level qualification.
Research shows that to qualify for these levels one needs to obtain at least five A* to C grades and this means they can keep their options open about what they need to study towards.

AS and A-levels are geared towards providing the academic rigour and grounding necessary for further study at university and in tertiary institutions.
The LGCSE, on the other hand, exists as a qualification where performance in each subject is individually recognised.
The phased-out COSC was based on a group award system.

The LGCSE does not have the 1st to 3rd classes, General Certificate of Education (GCE), or fail results so there is no need for numerals on the grades.
The questions raised about this were: is this the kind of education our government wants for our children? How easy will it be to make it into international institutions without an indicated pass or fail? Do we need just the reduced years’ programme or AS along with A-levels introduced in all schools countrywide?

’Makutloano ’Nei, from the Ministry of Education, applauded Soofia International School for “always addressing burning issues concerning education, thus making it outstanding”.
She said symposiums like this “are a necessity to always keep in check with the education progress as a country”.

She assured everyone that the ministry has been listening closely to the cry about the introduction of AS and A-levels in schools and the issue of the limited resources in schools.
She promised to forward the concerns to the relevant authorities in the ministry.

Bokang Masasa

 

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Mahao, PS in big fight

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PRIME Minister Sam Matekane this week summoned the Basotho Action Party (BAP) executive committee in a bid to defuse simmering tensions within the party.
This comes amid fears that Professor Nqosa Mahao’s fallout with his principal secretary at the Ministry of Energy, Tankiso Phapano, could threaten the unity in the BAP and the government’s stability.

thepost can reveal that Mahao has hinted that he would resign if Matekane doesn’t fire or reassign Phapano.

But there are strong indications that Mahao doesn’t enjoy the backing of his executive committee and MPs in his fight with Phapano.

Inside sources this week told thepost that some members of the BAP’s executive committee and MPs are openly siding with Phapano and have been secretly lobbying Matekane to reshuffle Mahao from the Ministry of Energy to Sports.

A source said Mahao is aware of these manoeuvres, including a clandestine meeting in Maputsoe, and has said he would rather resign than be the subject of a humiliating reshuffle instigated by people he leads.

The source of the bad blood between Mahao and Phapano is not clear but it is understood that they have disagreed over tenders and the ministry’s direction.

The source said Matekane was first briefed of the running battles at the ministry some three weeks ago just as matters were coming to a head.

It is the second briefing which revealed a complete breakdown in the relationship that triggered Matekane’s meeting with the BAP’s executive committee and MPs on Monday.

Three people who were in that meeting said Matekane told the BAP officials to deal with the crisis before it affected the ministry and threatened the coalition government’s stability.

The BAP’s executive committee, including MPs and Mahao, then had a marathon meeting to discuss ways to make peace between Mahao and Phapano.

A source who was in that meeting said “it was clear to Mahao that the majority of the committee and the MPs were on Phapano’s side”.

“Mahao quickly realised that he did not have the backing of the majority and took a conciliatory approach. It was clear that the committee would rather have him resign than get Phapano removed from the ministry,” the source said.

“In the past Mahao had flatly refused to reconcile with Phapano because of seniority. But this time he appeared to be open to a meeting to discuss reconciliation.”

Both Mahao and Phapano told thepost last night that their relationship was still cordial. ‘“We are still in good books with Phapano until further notice,” Mahao said.

“However, we cannot predict the future.”

Mahao denied ever discussing Phapano’s dismissal or transfer with Matekane.

Phapano also insisted that he was working well with Mahao.

“We are still on good terms,” Phapano said, adding that the allegation that they were fighting was “baseless”.

The fallout between Mahao and Phapano has been quick and spectacular.

The two had been almost inseparable months before Mahao agreed to join the coalition government.

Phapano would use his car to drive Mahao around. They would attend party meetings together. Some party insiders saw Phapano as Mahao’s right-hand man and adviser.

Mahao allegedly strongly pushed for Phapano to be appointed as his principal secretary when he became energy minister.

But sources said Mahao started having second thoughts days after recommending Phapano and tried to get his appointment reversed but it was too late.

A source says within weeks Mahao was telling cabinet colleagues that Phapano had captured the ministry and he was unable to function as the minister.

“He started pushing to oust Phapano within days because they were already clashing. It’s been war from the first days,” said the source.

Staff Reporter

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How chicken import ban hit vendors

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MALESHOANE Pakela used to work at small backyard chicken farms where she was paid with chicken heads, necks, legs, and offals that she would roast and sell to factory workers at the Thetsane Industrial Area.

Her job was to clean and pack chicken.
The profit wasn’t much but just enough for the 37-year-old widow to feed and keep her four children in school.

“It also covered her monthly rental of M150 for a room in Ha-Tsolo Sekoting.

Her life was however shattered last October when the government imposed a ban on chicken imports from South Africa following an outbreak of bird flu.
Without day-old chicks the farms quickly shut down, cutting Pakela’s supply of heads, necks, legs, and offals.
Within a few days, her family was starving.

Pakela had been struggling even for months before the ban. The closure of the factories and retrenchments of thousands of workers has severely hit her sales. She was behind on her rent and could barely feed her children.

The partial lifting of the chicken ban has not helped Pakela because her former employers still cannot import day-old chicks or live birds.
Pakela and a family were kicked out of their rented room in November when their arrears were about M1 000.
She has found another room nearby.

A ‘Good Samaritan’ has allowed her to use a room for free until she can afford the rent. But Pakela says she still feels obliged to pay something because she understands that things are hard for everyone.

“Here the rent is still M150 but the landlord accepts every amount that I give her,” Pakela says.
There are days when her children go to bed hungry.

“I have told them (children) that if I have nothing they should accept (the status).”

She now survives on handouts from neighbours and other well-wishers. Pakela’s poverty is apparent.

Barefoot and holding her small child in a seshoeshoe dress, Pakela says her two children usually go to school without eating.
The other child has dropped out of school because she doesn’t have shoes.

’Mako Lepolesa, 44, who has been running a chesanyama (meat grill) at the Maseru West Industrial Estate since 2018. The father of three says his clients are mainly taxi drivers and factory workers.

Chicken was her main product until last October when the ban was imposed. It wasn’t long before his business started wobbling.

“I thought it would be just a short-lived problem (chicken import ban) but it passed on this year,” he says, adding that it might take months for his business to recover.
Moshe Ramashamole, 42, who also owns a chesanyama in the Maseru West Industrial Estate, tried to remain in business by sourcing chicken from local farmers.

It was a stopgap measure that however lasted a few weeks because the farmers also ran out of stock. He resorted to bad chicken but they were double the price of a full chicken before the ban.
Yet Ramashamole thought he could make it work by increasing the price of his plate from M35 to M55. The customers however resisted the new price and Ramashamole had to take the losses.

The poultry ban did not affect street vendors like Pakela alone.
Former Minister of Communications, Khotso Letsatsi, is one of those poultry farmers struggling following the chicken ban.

He ventured into poultry in January last year. It was an audacious venture that included a M100 000 investment in a shelter and other equipment.
He started with a batch of 300 chicks and had reached 1 000 by the time the ban was imposed.

“The business was lucrative,” Letsatsi says.

“I had to employ two people permanently to assist me on a full-time basis,” he says.

When it was time to slaughter the chickens, Letsatsi says he had to employ seven casual labourers.
Since the ban was imposed he had released all his workers.

“I do not know where they are now. Maybe they are starving,” he says of the workers he released.

Letsatsi doesn’t know how he will revive his business.
The Director of Marketing in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS), Lekhooe Makhate, says the ban has been devastating to farmers and businesses.

“Some big businesses are going to declare less tax to the government because there was no business,” Makhate says.

He says Lesotho spends M2.1 billion on the importation of chicken and its products from South Africa every year.
But that amount usually soars to M4 billion depending on the market forces of demand and supply.

Makhate says the M2.1 billion goes to South Africa where the chicken and its products are imported.

At the height of the scarcity of chickens in the country, Makhate says people were supposed to make initiatives to travel to villages to search for chickens.

“There is not enough production of chickens in the country,” he says.
“Economically speaking we rely on South Africa. We have to be self-reliant.”

Majara Molupe

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Letseng fends off threat to sue

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LETŠENG Diamond says it is under no obligation to advertise jobs for Basotho to provide certain services “where it has the capacity to undertake the same services”.
Letšeng Diamond boss, Motooane Thinyane, was responding to a threat to sue by a little-known political party called Yearn for Economic Sustainability (YES).

Matekane’s company, the Matekane Mining Investment Company (MMIC), had been providing blasting, haulage and drilling services at Letšeng mine since 2005.
The deal with the MMIC was terminated in December last year with the mining company saying it was improper because Matekane had now become a politician.

Letšeng Diamonds announced that it had reached an agreement with the MMIC to acquire its mining equipment at the mine and offered employment to its current employees in line with operational requirements.

“This will enable Letšeng to continue with its mining activities,” the company said in its statement.

This infuriated opposition parties that argued that the mine should have called interested Basotho companies to bid for the contract, saying it is provided for in the Minerals Act of 2005.

The leader of Yearn for Economic Sustainability (YES), Molefi Ntšonyana, wrote the mine last week threatening to sue for allegedly failing to follow section 11 of the Act.
Ntšonyana argued that the Act “does not grant the Letšeng Diamond 100 percent to mine with its good own equipment” but it should engage Basotho companies like it did with the MMIC.

Ntšonyana said Letšeng Diamond and the MMIC made the agreement to acquire the MMIC equipment so that the mine could continue with its mining activities “without any advertisement to seek qualified Basotho to provide such services”.

Ntšonyana said the agreement unilaterally denied Basotho a chance to tender for such services and ignored the fact that the government of Lesotho on behalf of Basotho own 30 percent in the Letšeng Diamond.

“It is advisable to reconsider your decision,” Ntšonyana said, adding that they would also write to the mining board requesting the resolution they made regarding this matter of insourcing mining activities.

He said the company should adhere to section 11 of the Mines and Minerals Act of 2005 and within 14 working days the matter should be reconsidered, “failing which we will have no choice but to drag the company to the courts of law”.

In his response, Thinyane said Ntšonyana must “revisit the section in question in full for its correct interpretation”.

“Letšeng Diamond is under no obligation to advertise to seek qualified Basotho to provide services where it is willing and has the capacity to undertake the same services,” Thinyane said.

He said the decision relating to the agreement referred to has been through the necessary governance structures and is therefore procedural.
Thinyane said Letšeng is a corporate citizen that is fully compliant with the laws of Lesotho.

Majara Molupe

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