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Schools turn to virtual learning



MASERU-THE Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdowns have affected nearly every sector in the country, but few are as affected as the education sector.
Schools and colleges are closed, with no sign of when they will open. Online learning has become the in-thing, but it is proving to be a challenge for some.

Nthabiseng Potiane, a Centre for Accounting Studies’ (CAS) Chartered Institute of Management (CIMA) first year student, says online learning “is very challenging” compared to physical classes.
Potiane says data is unaffordable for many students who come from poor backgrounds. She has to buy M50 of data weekly to be able to participate in class via Google meet.

“This requires a lot of money which my parents do not have and I missed two classes already since the schools’ reopening,” she says.
“I relied on my classmates for information that I missed.”
She says it would be cheaper for learning materials to be shared via instant messaging app, WhatsApp

Thabo Sesinyi, another CAS fresher, says he missed classes for an entire week because he was yet to master how the system operates.
“I am still learning how this operates, just now I pressed the speaker accidentally and it disturbed the class. I did not even know how to undo such until I got assistance,” Sesinyi says.

Another CAS student, Nthabiseng Raselimo, says it will take her some time to get used to online learning.
Raselimo says sometimes her data runs out while class is still on while network connection can be a problem.
Raselimo says she used to buy 800 MB weekly but it was not enough.
“I wish we were already getting allowances,” she says.
Raselimo says some of her classmates have not attended a single class due to lack of resources.

“We are 50 in our WhatsApp group, about 20 are missing classes,” she said.
CAS’s SRC Minister for Academic Affairs, Bokope Sesemane, says students are slowly getting used to online learning.
“All they have to do was adapt to this change and get used to it,” Sesemane said.

However some students still struggle with equipment, he said.
“They still need laptops and some students are struggling,” he said.
To alleviate the problem and help students with both data and equipment, the institution on Friday applied to the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS) for funds. There has been no response to date, said Sesemane.

Sesemane said students should be granted a data package.
“This will solve our problem as students will be able to buy monthly data and join classes,” he said.
National University of Lesotho (NUL) Student Representative Council (SRC) President, Reatlehile Makateng, said both students and the institution were yet to catch up with online learning.

Makateng said the university still lacks facilities (electronic material) for online learning.
He says the absence of an up-to-date website makes the situation worse.
“Our website needs modification as it is not up to the standard,” he said.
Makateng said the website allows for the upload of materials “but there is no teaching and learning, we can’t even watch a video lecture.”

He noted that online learning is not effective for some courses.
“Practical courses require provision for school attendance under certain conditions,” he said, adding that they held a meeting with relevant stakeholders to discuss their concerns and the way forward on Tuesday.
He said officials at the National Covid-19 Secretariat (Nacosec) are “not willing” to listen to strategies proffered by the students’ body.

“Nacosec only listens to the Ministry of Education yet the ministry does not have any strategies so far,” he said.
However, he said the parliament social cluster came to their rescue after agreeing to form a working committee that will come up with solutions to the challenges faced by students and learning institutions.
“Should they not assist, students will be forced to do with the available but inadequate online learning,” he said.

Limkokwing University of Creative Technology (LUCT) SRC President, Retšelisitsoe Mathebeng, says students used WhatsApp to disseminate information but not to participate in online learning.
He said it is still unclear whether the institution will adopt online learning for the upcoming semester like other institutions have done.
“Virtual education was never official here as we were still attending classes observing all the set Covid-19 regulations,” he said.

He said university management informed them that their request to introduce online learning at Council of Higher Learning (CHE) has not been approved.
“In the meantime, we will continue with our last semester practice. Students will go to school in batches,” he said.
He says they were put into two groups: the first will go to school from

Monday to Thursday while the other from Thursday to Sunday.
Lesotho College of Education (LCE) SRC President, Motlalehi Fako, said the body has written to the Ministry of Development Planning requesting a data bail-out but there has been no response.
“But we are hopeful that we will still have a meeting with them,” he said.
“Students cannot afford laptops or smartphones for online engagements and some lecturers are still reluctant to use it due to lack of knowledge,” he said.

Lesotho Agricultural College President, Tšitso Khereng, said online learning was difficult due to the practical nature of their courses.
“How are we expected to do that online?” he asked.
The NMDS Director, Thabo Ntoi, said the outbreak of Covid-19 means “things will not be done the normal way” and asked for patience.
“Processes will take longer than when we were working in a normal environment,” he said.

Ntoi said he cannot reveal how soon students will sign their contracts but the institution was already working on the issue
He says the M550 data allowance was “a once off thing” as Covid-19 has caused reductions in revenue.

“We will only be able to cater for certain needs, we cannot buy them laptops as requested,” he said, adding, “Students should budget well and not live like things are normal.”
He said the organisation is working with relevant stakeholders “to see how they can assist to make online learning easier for students”.
“We will see where that will lead us but students should also be reasonable… the virus has affected our economy,” Ntoi said.

The Education Ministry’s Basic Education Principal Secretary, Dr Neo Liphoto, said the reopening of schools will be determined by the Prime Minister.
He said the education sector is working on ensuring that online teaching proceeds smoothly.

Parliament’s Social Cluster Chairman, Fako Moshoeshoe, said online learning won’t produce quality students.
He said the social cluster was pleading for precautionary measures to be put in place before schools reopen.

Online learning, he said, is very difficult financially. “It is so stressful but Covid-19 should not lead to the death of education.”
He said the closure of learning institutions has affected students psychologically and many have resorted to drugs and unprotected sex.

’Mapule Motsopa



City Council bosses up for fraud



THREE senior Maseru City Council (MCC) bosses face charges of fraud, theft, corruption and money laundering.

Town clerk Molete Selete and consultant Molefe Nthabane appeared in the Maseru Magistrate’s Court yesterday.

City engineer Matsoso Tikoe did not appear as he was said to be out of the country. He will be arraigned when he returns.

They are charged together with Kenneth Leong, the project manager of SCIG-SMCG-TIM Joint Venture, the company that lost the M379 million Mpilo Boulevard contract in January.

The joint venture made up of two Chinese companies, Shanxi Construction Investment Group (SCIG) and Shanxi Mechanization Construction Group (SMCG), and local partner Tim Plant Hire (TIM), has also been charged.

Selete and Nthabane were released on bail of M5 000 and surety of M200 000 each. Leong was granted bail of M10 000 and surety of M400 000 or property of the same value.

The charges are a culmination of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) investigation that has been going on for the past months or so.

The prosecution says Selete, Nthabane, Tikoe, and Leong acted in concert as they intentionally and unlawfully abused the functions of their offices by authorising an advance payment of M14 million to a joint-venture building the Mpilo Boulevard.

An advance payment guarantee is a commitment issued by a bank to pay a specified amount to one party of a contract on-demand as protection against the risk of the other party’s non-performance.

The prosecution says the payment was processed after the company had provided a dubious advance payment guarantee. It says the officials knew that the guarantee was fake and therefore unenforceable.

As revealed by thepost three weeks ago, SCIG and SMCG were responsible for providing the payment guarantee as lead partners in the joint venture.

The prosecution says the MCC was required by law to make advance payment after SCIG-SMCG-TIM Joint Venture submitted a guarantee as per the international standards on construction contracts.

It alleges that the MCC has now lost the M14 million paid to SCIG-SMCG-TIM Joint Venture because of the fake advanced guarantee.

thepost has seen minutes of meetings in which officials from the joint venture admitted to MCC officers that the advance payment guarantee was dubious.

SCIG-SMCG-TIM kept promising to provide a genuine guarantee but never did. Yet the MCC officials did not report the suspected fraud to the police or take any action against the company.

It was only in January this year that the MCC cancelled the contract on the basis that the company had failed to provide a genuine guarantee.

Despite receiving the advance payment SCIG and SMCG refused to pay TIM Joint Venture for the initial work.

SCIG and SMCG, the lead partners in the joint venture, are reportedly suing the MCC to restore the contract. Officials from TIM Plant Hire however say they are not aware of their partners’ lawsuit against the MCC.

Staff Reporter

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Scott fights for free lawyer



DOUBLE-MURDER convict Lehlohonolo Scott is fighting the government to pay a lawyer to represent him in his appeal.
Scott, serving two life sentences for murdering Kamohelo Mohata and Moholobela Seetsa in 2012, says his efforts to get a state-sponsored lawyer have been repeatedly frustrated by the Registrar of the High Court, Advocate ’Mathato Sekoai.
He wants to appeal both conviction and sentence.
He has now filed an application in the High Court seeking an order to compel Advocate Sekoai to appoint a lawyer to represent him.
He tells the court that he is representing himself in that application because the Registrar has rejected his request to pay his legal fees or appoint a lawyer for him.
People who cannot fund their own legal costs can apply to the Registrar for what is called pro deo, legal representation paid for by the state.
Scott says Sekoai has told him to approach Legal Aid for assistance.
The Legal Aid office took a year to respond to him, verbally through correctional officers, saying it does not communicate directly with inmates.
The Legal Aid also said he doesn’t qualify to be their client.
“I was informed that one Mrs Papali, if I recall the name well, who is the Chief Legal Aid counsel, had said that Legal Aid does not communicate with inmates so she could not write back to me,” Scott says.
“Secondly, they represent people in minor cases. Thirdly, they represent indigent people of which she suggested I am not one of them.”
“Fourthly, there are no prospects of success in my case hence they won’t assist me.”
He says the Legal Aid’s fifth reason was that he has been in jail for a long time.
Scott is asking the High Court to set aside Sekoai’s decision and order her to facilitate pro deo services for him, saying her decision was “irregular, irrational, and unlawful”.
He argues that the Registrar’s role was to finance his case to finality, meaning up to the Court of Appeal.
The Registrar insists that the arrangement was to provide him a lawyer until his High Court trial ended.
Scott says his lawyer, Advocate Thulo Hoeane, who was paid by the state, had promised to file an appeal a day after his sentencing but he did not.
He argues that the Registrar did not hear him but arbitrarily decided to end pro deo.
Scott says he wrote to Acting Chief Justice ’Maseforo Mahase in 2018 soon after his conviction and sentencing seeking assistance but he never received any response.
Later, he wrote to Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane in November 2020 and he received a response through Sekoai who rejected his request.
Scott tells the High Court that he managed to apply to the Court of Appeal on his own but the Registrar later told him, through correctional officers, that “the Court of Appeal does not permit ordinary people to approach it”.
He argues that “where justice or other public interest considerations demand, the courts have always departed from the rules without any problem”.
Staff Reporter

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Army ordered to pay up



THE Ombudsman has asked parliament to intervene to force the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) to compensate families of people killed by soldiers.
Advocate Tlotliso Polaki told parliament, in two damning reports on Monday, that the LDF is refusing to compensate the family of Lisebo Tang who was shot dead by soldiers near the former commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli’s home in 2014.

The LDF, she said, is also refusing to compensate the family of Molapo Molapo who was killed by a group of soldiers at his home in Peka, Ha-Leburu in 2022.

Advocate Polaki wrote the LDF in January last year saying it should pay Tang’s mother, Makhola Tang, M300 000 “as a reasonable and justifiable redress for loss of support”.

The Tang family claim investigation started in February 2022 and the LDF responded that it “had undertaken the responsibility for funeral expenses and other related costs”.

Advocate Polaki investigated whether the LDF could be held accountable for Tang’s death and whether his family should be compensated while the criminal case is pending.

She found that the soldiers were “acting within the scope of their employment to protect the army commander and his family” when they killed Tang.

Soldiers killed Tang in Lithabaneng while she was in a parked car with her boyfriend at what the army termed “a compromising spot” near the commander’s residence.

The three soldiers peppered the vehicle with a volley of shots, killing Tang and wounding the boyfriend.

Advocate Polaki found that the army arranged to pay for the funeral costs and to continue buying groceries and school needs for Tang’s daughter.

The LDF, however, kept this for only four years but abruptly stopped.

When asked why it stopped, the army said “there is a criminal case pending in court”.

The army also said it felt that it would be admitting guilt if it compensated the Tang’s family.

The Ombudsman said “a civil claim for pecuniary compensation lodged is not dependent on the criminal proceedings running at the same time”.

“The LDF created a legitimate but unreasonable expectation and commitments between themselves and the complainant which had no duration attached thereto and which showed a willingness to cooperate and work harmoniously together,” Advocate Polaki found.

“The LDF was correct in withdrawing such benefit in the absence of a clear policy guideline or order to continue to offer such benefit or advantage,” she said.

“However, she should have been consulted first as the decision was prejudicial to her interest.”

She said the army’s undertaking “fell short of a critical element of duration and reasonability”.

Tang was a breadwinner working at Pick ’n Pay Supermarket as a cleaner earning M2 000 a month.

Her daughter, the Ombudsman said, is now in grade six and her school fees alone had escalated to M3 200 per year.

She said an appropriate redress should be premised on her family’s loss of income and future loss of support based on her salary and the prejudice suffered by her mother and daughter.

She said M300 000 is “a reasonable and justifiable redress for loss of support”.

In Molapo’s case, Advocate Polaki told parliament that the LDF refused to implement her recommendations to compensate his two daughters.

The complainant is his father, Thabo Joel Molapo.

The Ombudsman told the army in August last year that it should pay the girls M423 805 “for the negligent death of their father”.

Advocate Polaki said despite that the criminal matter is before the court, “it is established that the Ombudsman can assert her jurisdiction and make determinations on the complaint”.

Molapo, 32, was brutally murdered by a soldier in Peka in December 2020.

Molapo had earlier fought with the soldier and disarmed him.

The soldier, the Ombudsman found, rushed to Mokota-koti army post to request backup to recover his rifle. When he returned with his colleagues, they found him hiding in his house. The soldier then shot Molapo.

The LDF, the Ombudsman said, conceded that the soldier killed Molapo while on duty and that he had been subjected to internal disciplinary processes.

“The LDF is bound by the consequences of the officer’s actions who was negligent and caused Molapo’s death,” she said.

She found that after Molapo was killed, army officers and the Minister of Defence visited his family and pledged to pay his children’s school fees. They also promised to hire one of his relatives who would “cater for the needs of the deceased’s children going forward”.

The LDF, she said, has now reneged on its promises saying its “recruitment policy and legal considerations did not allow for such decision to be implemented”.

Molapo’s father told the Ombudsman that the LDF said “the undertakings were not implementable and were made by the minister at the time just to console the family”.

All the payments in the two cases, the Ombudsman has asked parliament, should be made within three months.

Staff Reporter

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