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Taming the ‘maths monster’

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MASERU – ’MAKHOTSO Lecheko knows that to land a highly rewarding career, her daughter will need Mathematics. So when her 12-year-old daughter Khauhelo showed signs of struggling with the subject during her Grade 7 classes last year, Lecheko wasted no time taking action.

Khauhelo was immediately enrolled with the Universal Concepts of Mental Arithmetic Systems (UCMAS), a programme that focuses on improving mathematical skills for pupils.
UCMAS is a brain development and mental arithmetic programme operating in 78 countries. In Lesotho, it was launched in 2012 and it is already making a difference in the lives of pupils struggling with Mathematics.

To enable them to excel academically and in life in general, children from the age of 4 to 13 are taken through a programme that helps improve their judgment, memory, confidence, concentration, calculations speed and imagination.

Khauhelo is now in Form A at Lesotho High School and her mother is not regretting enrolling her into the programme.

“A few months after joining the programme, her performance in Mathematics improved,” Lecheko says.
Khauhelo’s teachers were also impressed with her sudden improvement, Lecheko says.
So dramatic has been Khauhelo’s progress that she has qualified to enter the 22nd edition of the International UCMAS competitions in Malaysia.

UCMAS competitions are touted as “a breakthrough in thinking education which directly stimulate children animation memory, enhance children instinct thinking, logical thinking, understanding thinking, divergence thinking, optimization, creative thinking, inspiration thinking, visual thinking and afflatus thinking”.
Lecheko is prepared to continue paying for Khauhelo’s UCMAS programme because of the rewards that accompany mathematical skills.

According to the Times of India, Mathematics helps make life orderly and prevents chaos.
Certain qualities that are nurtured by Mathematics are power of reasoning, creativity, abstract or spatial thinking, critical thinking, problem-solving ability and even effective communication skills.

Lecheko says due to the costs of participating at the International UCMAS competition, she has considered asking her daughter to skip the competition but later decided to hustle hard to raise the money.

’Matebello Lebitsa-Tsibane enrolled her daughter Reitumetse into the UCMAS programme when she was only nine years old last year.

Reitumetse, a pupil at Mohale’s Hoek English Medium, was among the qualifiers for the 22nd UCMAS international competition.

And now she possesses “great” Mathematics skills.
“She is able to solve 200 questions in eight minutes,” says Lebitsa-Tsibane, noting that financial challenges were the major hurdle.

“There is no sponsor for the children who have qualified for international competitions,” she says.
Nyenyane Ntaote, whose daughter, Tlotliso Raliapeng was among the qualifiers described the lack of sponsors as “painful”.

The UCMAS Lesotho chapter held the qualifying competitions in partnership with Universal Educational Group South Africa on Saturday, with over 300 students participating in the programme.
The students were divided into categories of tan gram, twin-gram, flashcard and listening competitions.
Elizabeth Ramolula, a Mathematics teacher at St Mary’s kindergarten school in Mohale’s Hoek, said the programme has been useful in improving children’s skills.

Ramolula says she works with children between the ages of four and six, most who can solve up to 120 questions in eight minutes.

Her school began participating in the UCMAS programme in 2014 and that same year several of her students qualified for an international competition in Dubai where a six-year old student grabbed second position.
The Franchisee of UCMAS Lesotho, James Mabeta, said the programme helps kids in areas such as observation, memorising and concentration.

“If your concentration and memorisation are good it means you can grasp a lot of things and remember most of the things taught in class,” Mabeta says.
“Each year we have the national competitions which enable kids to qualify for international competitions,” he says, adding that 19 pupils who went to Malaysia last year all received trophies and medals.

“The only challenge is that parents cannot afford to send their children to international competitions,” Mabeta says.
Some of the best performers last year were unable to travel to Malaysia because their parents could not afford to meet the costs.
Programmes such as UCMAS are badly needed in Lesotho.
According to the World Bank, Basotho students’ level of learning in primary school is the third lowest in the southern African region despite high public spending on education.
“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 school and 42 percent completes junior secondary school, respectively,” according to the World Bank 2016 research.
National University of Lesotho lecturer, ’Mamosa Ntšohi, says students have serious difficulties to learn Mathematics.

In her PhD dissertation in education in 2013, Ntšohi says the teaching of algebra in middle school grades in Lesotho was dominated by a mechanistic approach where learners are drilled on procedures for solving certain types of problems in algebra, without making any connection to the experience learners had with arithmetic.
“This is one of the sources of learners’ difficulties in Mathematics,” Ntšohi says.
“Mathematics is one of the subjects given high status in national curricula. This is in realisation of its usefulness to humankind,” Ntšohi says.

Mabeta believes that mathematical problems that are fun can motivate students to enjoy the subject.

’Makhotso Rakotsoane

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Police hunt former minister

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THE police have launched a hunt for former police minister, Lepota Sekola, who is suspected of involvement in stock theft.
Police want to arrest Sekola in connection with two cattle carcasses that were found at his grandfather’s funeral in Borokhoaneng three weeks ago.

During the initial interview, Sekola had insisted that the cows belonged to his late grandfather who had kept them in South Africa for better pastures.

The police didn’t arrest him at that time because investigations were still in the early stages. Further investigations have however led the police to believe that the animals were stolen from South Africa.

But when they were ready for the arrest, Sekola could not be found at his home or on his phone.

Police say Sekola will be charged with unlawful possession and illegal importation of two cows from South Africa.

The National Stock Theft Coordinator, Senior Superintendent Mapesela Klaass, told thepost last night that they “have completed investigations but he (Sekola) is nowhere to be seen”.

“We cannot get him on his mobile phones,” S/Supt Klaass said, adding that the police have been “visiting his home but he is not there”.

“His family members are aware that we are looking for him,” he said.

S/Supt Klaass said they are continuing with their search and as soon as they find him, they are going to drag him to the courts.

He said the police suspect the cows were brought from South Africa to be slaughtered for Sekola’s grandfather’s funeral.

Police sources told thepost that one of the cows had new branding while another had nothing. Both had holes on the ears that signalled that they used to have ear tags.

Majara Molupe

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Magistrate saves WILSA boss

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A Maseru magistrate, Nthabiseng Moopisa, this week stayed the criminal prosecution of Advocate ’Mamosa Mohlabula who is accused of tax evasion, money laundering and corruption.

In her application Advocate Mohlabula, who is the director of Women and Law in Southern Africa (WILSA), said the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) should not charge her pending finalisation of her tax evasion case.

Advocate Mohlabula is out on bail after she was formally charged with tax evasion in July last year.

She told Magistrate Moopisa that the DPP, Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane, was wrong to have agreed with the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) to bring charges against her.

“In my viewpoint, the DCEO cannot be heard to charge me in relation to matters already seized with this Honourable Court,” she said in an affidavit.

She also said there is a pending civil case in the High Court in which the DCEO’s abuse of power is referenced, saying the precise way the case is handled will depend “on the way an alleged offence comes to the light”.

“Before that pending case is finalised, DCEO has no jurisdiction to detail me to court over isolated phenomenon of tax evasion and or over grievances of former employees of WILSA,” she said.
Advocate Mohlabula was charged together with the WILSA’s chief accounting officer.

She argued that it was WILSA that was being investigated, not individuals, further saying that was “a significant safeguard that the DCEO was impartial from an objective viewpoint”.

“To exclude any legitimate doubt in this respect the DCEO returned the items it seized from WILSA,” she said.

“This was a realistic and practical step towards administering justice and to avoid premature embarrassment to the management of WILSA.”

She said the Board of Trustees of WILSA were sent briefing notes which in certain respects reflected that the DCEO returned the properties of WILSA without warning them that they were suspects.

“In any event, we proceeded to fashion our arguments before the High Court. There was, and could be, no evidence to back up the decision of the DCEO to apply for the search warrant,” she said.

Advocate Mohlabula said before they took the matter to the High Court, she cooperated with the DCEO and it conducted an inquiry into the alleged crimes.

“Now that the matter is pending before the High Court, there is no more reason for the DCEO to remand me before the pending cases are finalised,” she said.

Staff Reporter

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Mphaka barred from ABC deputy’s race

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THE All Basotho Convention (ABC) has barred former Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka and three others from contesting for the deputy leader’s position at an elective conference set for this week.
The three are Kefeletsoe Mojela, Katleho Molelle, and Lekhetho Mosito.

Mosito was an MP who was appointed Defence Minister for a day and removed the following day during Dr Moeketsi Majoro’s premiership.
The elective conference is set to be held at the Leqele High School hall this weekend.

A circular from the ABC said the three did not qualify to enter the race because they had not held any positions in the party’s committees.

The decision to bar the three is reminiscent of the same tactics that saw former leader Thomas Thabane block Professor Nqosa Mahao from contesting for the party’s deputy leader’s position.
Professor Mahao subsequently walked away and formed the Basotho Action Party (BAP).

A weakened ABC has never recovered from that split.

Mphaka and his colleagues were vying for the deputy leader’s position until they were stopped in their tracks by the circular which was issued out on Monday this week.
Dr Pinkie Manamolela is the current deputy leader.

She was plucked from the women’s league to replace Dr Majoro who had resigned from the national executive committee after losing the leadership race to Nkaku Kabi in 2022.

There is a high chance that the four could drag the ABC to court to assert their right to contest. The legal wrangles will likely destabilise the party that is still smarting from a thorough thrashing in general elections held in October 2022.

Mphaka this week told thepost that he will challenge the decision to block him in the courts of law.
“They are crazy people,” Mphaka said.

“I will not allow this to happen,” he said.

“I have already instructed my lawyers to launch an urgent application in the High Court to challenge the decision before Friday this week.”

He complained that it was not clear why the party had decided to kick him out of the race after he spent a lot of time and resources campaigning.

Mphaka said the national executive committee “usually allows members to contest for positions without considering whether they were ever in the constituency committees or not”.

The contenders in the race are former Water Minister Samonyane Ntsekele, ex-Police MP Lehlohonolo Moramotse, former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Leshoboro Mohlajoa, and Maseru Star Taxi Association member Sekhonyana Mosenene.

A member of the national executive committee told thepost that “many of us support Mphaka and Kefeletsoe at all costs”.

“We were dismayed when we saw the circular removing the duo from the race,” he said.

He said many ABC members were rallying behind Mphaka because “he has been campaigning even before everyone could start”.

“They know he has lots of followers.”

He said it is unfair that Mosenene has been allowed to run but he has never held any position in any constituency except that he represented his taxi association in the ABC national executive committee.
“Why has he been allowed to contest yet he is just like Mphaka and Kefeletsoe?”

He complained that Sekhonyana, while representing taxi operators in the committee, was eventually made the deputy party spokesman despite not being in any constituency committee after ’Matebatso Doti resigned from the position.

“Mphaka was chosen by the party to lead the 2022 elections campaign teams and develop a party manifesto,” he said.

“He was allowed to do all that without being involved in any party structures.”

The party’s spokesman Montoeli Masoetsa declined to comment.

Dr Manamolela told thepost that “the decision was not made by the party’s national executive committee”.

“I do not want to talk much …but it is not true that the party’s NEC decided to remove Mphaka and Kefeletsoe”.

Kabi could not be reached for comment.

Nkheli Liphoto

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