The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed Lesotho’s higher education’s inability to cope with the demands of the 21st century. Your article, ‘NUL Senate backs Mosito’ that describes a conflict between the university’s management against students over online teaching and learning epitomises this challenge.
On the other hand, many remember the 2015 and 2016 demands for decolonised higher education by South African students. More recently a friend expressed reservations about the decolonisation of higher education curriculum saying he has “never heard exactly how it was colonised”. He lamented that ‘a university student describing it left me wondering whether these popular slogans have contributed to stupidity demonstrated by this student.’
The Centre on Higher Education (CHE) highlights that Lesotho’s government must invest more in higher education. But the uptake of these students into the world of work is a concern. For example, there were 4 139, 2 836, and 3 351 unemployed graduates for 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18 respectively. Many of these graduates have never worked beyond graduation. The figures must have risen drastically due to the Covid-19 pandemic shutdown.
Educational crises stir up every curriculum reconstruction. The Covid-19 pandemic, the national shutdown with its aftermath, presents Lesotho’s education system with an opportune moment to reposition for the 21st century. I will argue that the African child must be at the centre of such a curriculum. In the context of Lesotho, an African university is one that affirms a Mosotho child, their culture and being.
Lesotho inherited an education system whose primary aim was to develop the Christian character. The system instilled the Christian ethos with little attention to subjects like mathematics and the sciences. This practice filtered into higher education, where the Catholics established Pius XII College in 1945. Pius provided African Catholic students with post-matriculation and religious guidance.
A plethora of denominational teachers’ and nurses’ training colleges mushroomed alongside the church denominations. Moreover, the government built Lerotholi Artisan Training College (now Lerotholi Polytechnic) and the Lesotho Agricultural College (LAC). The education system produced teachers, ministers, nurses, police officers, artisans, and agricultural field supervisors. The education system served the convenience of colonial civil servants who were stationed in Basutoland.
Lesotho governments subsequently built several HEIs. In 1975, the government combined all the denominational teacher training colleges to form the Lesotho National Teachers’ Training College. This later became the Lesotho College of Education (LCE). The year 1979, saw the birth of the Centre for Accounting Studies, (CAS). The government established the Lesotho National Health Training College (NHTC) in 1989.
With the colonisation, the focus shifted. Scholars like Mokopakgosi and government reports agree that education in Lesotho is an adaptation and modification of the English education system. The colonial government redirected the Lesotho education system to capacitate the public sector in the areas deemed scarce. For example, the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland (UBLS), an offspring of Pius XII College, offered qualifications in public administration, economics, law, education, theology and general humanities.
The National University of Lesotho (NUL) emerged in 1975 after UBLS disintegrated. The NUL inherited Faculties of Sciences, Social Science, Education, and Humanities, and kept them until they added the Faculty of Law, and subsequently, Faculties of Agriculture (established, 1991) and Health Sciences.
The demise of the UBLS is symptomatic to the broader failure of the higher education system in Lesotho. The UBLS failed because of the strong insular nationalism of the member states and the absence of regionalism. At a local level, an appropriate term is ‘nationhood’. Nationhood must drive our higher education system. Here, nationhood means the degree to which we empower ourselves, thus, escape being disempowered by others.
Lesotho has a total of 15 HEIs, three universities and 12 colleges. The total higher education enrolment was 23 223 (females 61% and males 39%) in 2017/18. Yet, there were 353 masters and 11 doctoral students. In 2017/18, there were 9 477, 2 456 and 9 289 students enrolled for diplomas, advanced diploma and undergraduate degrees. Most students enrol for undergraduate qualifications. The CHE worries that these do not address Lesotho’s developmental needs.
It is essential to find out where the females (61%) are in their respective HEIs. HEIs must guide women into priority programmes that empower them to play active roles in Lesotho’s development agenda. Lesotho cannot be what it is ought to be unless a woman is what she ought to be.
The World Bank, says our public healthcare system is ailing and crisis-plagued. The current pandemic overly highlights this predicament. Quality healthcare is scarce and inaccessible to the general public. Moreover, CHE seeks to align higher education programmes with national priorities.
But then, in 2016, Lesotho lost the opportunity to address its public healthcare challenges when the government elected to shut down the Lesotho School of Medicine (LSoM). The government blamed their decision on CHE’s audit recommendation. The government chose a more comfortable option when they knew well that CHE’s recommendations were developmental and not punitive.
LSoM conception, its feasibility study and implementation saw different Vice-Chancellors (VC) and governments. Each had other interests at different times. For example, the VC at the time of shutdown was indifferent about LSoM in his restructuring agenda of NUL.
After the shutdown, the prime minister turned this debacle into politics. He promised to build a medical school that his government had just dismantled.
This decision was myopic because it denied Basotho world-class healthcare. To run effectively, the school required top-notch physical and human facilities. These benefits would trickle down to all Basotho.
Moreover, doctors prefer to work in the context in which they were trained. Therefore, it makes sense that we train Basotho doctors in Lesotho. The doctors would be trained on Basotho, using available equipment. When the equipment is unavailable, the government must buy it.
CHE publishes HEIs’ academics’ qualifications. We must view academics’ credentials in the context of curriculum implementation and research output. Research output, postgraduate studies at masters and doctoral levels, relate to academics with PhDs. Out of a total of 494 teaching staff at NUL, 124 had PhDs. Limkokwing University of Creative Technology (LUCT) had no academics with PhDs while Botho University (BU) had one.
The curriculum of HEIs in the Third World mirrors those in western countries. The curriculum is often static and resistant to change. Mashinini says the curriculum reconstruction process at NUL was slow, with departments making cosmetic changes while mainly offering the old curriculum.
Enrolment statistics tell us that the system focuses its resources on undergraduate studies. This practice hinders Lesotho from addressing her developmental needs because undergraduate studies take up most resources that institutions would use to engage in postgraduate studies. CHE reports that research output is low in Lesotho. HEIs must correct this anomaly.
CHE is concerned about the low NUL research output. But other universities did not produce any research. Despite CHE’s recommendation that LUCT and BU take up research, these are private universities, whose priorities focus on their balance sheet.
Elsewhere, I have shown that the church took away the power of Basotho to determine their cultural values and traditions. In short, the educational system needs to transform. According to Mills, transformation entails dismantling a colonial system which keeps re-writing itself by conditioning what we can think, do and believe, well after the demise of colonisation. In other words, for Lesotho to fully transform, Basotho must disentangle themselves entirely from the bondage of colonialism.
Scholars such as Wilson and Prah argue that using a colonial language compromises an African student. Prah asserts that African education systems, such as in Lesotho, must turn to their vernacular if they wish to develop their countries by making education relevant. ‘Lift the language’, he contends, ‘you lift the people’. If Lesotho puts her indigenous language, Sesotho, at the forefront, the country’s concerns will be at the centre of the national educational curriculum. Knowledge and innovation would answer the Basotho needs and aspirations.
For HEIs to blossom, all teaching academics must engage in power relations at play during curriculum development. The curriculum, the Language of Teaching, Learning and Assessment (LoTLA), textbooks and other references, represent the dominant group, the English, our former colonial masters.
Instead, our curriculum must reflect Basotho. As Wilson suggests, an African curriculum puts an African child at the centre. Put differently, Basotho must be at the centre of a Lesotho HE curriculum. This curriculum must affirm Basotho, their being and values. In so doing this curriculum will empower Lesotho. The economy of a country is as good as its people. Therefore, Basotho must actively drive their knowledge agenda.
Culture, Basotho tradition and values of people are not static. They evolve as the context and environments that people live in change. But societies will always have a culture and a set of values they live by. History teaches us that Basotho cultural practices such as ‘lebollo’ and many others were critical to Lesotho’s nation-building. HEIs must incorporate this knowledge into their curriculum.
So, HEIs must conduct multi-disciplinary research to explore ways of putting Basotho culture and traditional values at the centre of their curriculum. Such multi-disciplinary and institutional research must involve the Centre for Teaching and Learning, Moshoeshoe I Institute of Leadership, the Faculties of Education and Social Sciences at NUL and teaching departments.
Sociologist Bernstein developed the ‘pedagogic device’ to explain how power dynamics in education serve the dominant groups’ interests. The pedagogic device provides a framework for translating knowledge into pedagogy, in doing so helps organise knowledge into teaching.
Bernstein identified three main fields for the pedagogic device: Fields of Production, Recontextualisation, and Reproduction. The Field of Production is concerned with research and knowledge creation. Production of knowledge takes place in research institutes and universities.
The next field, the Field of Recontextualisation, deals with selecting and ordering knowledge into the curriculum. At higher education, the recontextualisation of knowledge must occur at teaching departments. Lastly, the Field of Reproduction is about pedagogising knowledge. Pedagogy takes place at schools and HEIs classrooms.
The fields are hierarchically related, and they inform each other. Recontextualisation of knowledge can only take after production of original knowledge. The two other fields sandwich the Field of Recontextualisation, in the hierarchy. At the same time, reproduction of knowledge cannot take place without recontextualisation of knowledge.
Institutionalised religions like Christianity successfully ‘pedagogised’ knowledge, and used the Bible to conquer nations. Constantine instructed the clerics to translate the Old and New Testaments into Latin. They deliberately re-organised the books of the Bible to suit the Emperor’s purpose. The church enculturated the conquered nations with their doctrine. For example, the missionaries urged Moshoeshoe to ban Basotho culture to promote Christianity.
HEIs must undertake the processes of knowledge production and reproduction. All academics must become active actors in the different fields of Bernstein’s pedagogic device. They must drive the academic agenda of HEIs and privilege Basotho culture, values, and Lesotho’s needs.
HEIs predominantly registered students in diploma qualifications. Further, diploma qualifications are the highest qualifications in colleges. They must convert a majority of these diploma qualifications into degrees. Degrees provide a foundation for postgraduate studies, which in turn lead to doctoral studies. Postgraduate studies both at masters and doctoral qualification help to launch research at HEIs. These qualifications are critical in building a critical mass of research and knowledge production.
There is a critical need to improve research capacity in public HEIs: NUL, LCE, LP, LAC and CAS. I do not suggest that we must exclude private HEIs from these endeavours. But they are run purely as a business entity to survive. Quality research feeds directly into quality knowledge production, curriculum and pedagogy. Hence, the government must attach research output in the funding formula for these institutions, especially universities, while at the same time motivating emerging researchers in colleges.
In conclusion, this article argues that the shutdown of LSoM was erroneous. The government could have avoided such a move. The scientific study identified a need, but different actors failed because of the lack of political and institutional will. The present pandemic, with mutant variants emerging, shows that this was an opportunity missed. Notwithstanding the current studies of the NUL’s Innovation Hub, Lesotho would research a pandemic remedy in her context.
I showed that creating research capacity in institutions facilitates academics to develop into active actors at all power levels in Bernstein’s pedagogic device arena. This empowerment endeavours would empower Basotho academics to determine the curriculum and pedagogics in our HEIs. If Lesotho can determine its knowledge, then Basotho would have the power to decide their future.
Scholars suggest that African institutions revert to African languages such as Sesotho as LoTLA our HEIs. But many view this suggestion as ludicrous. We may use Sesotho to lift Basotho. The LoTLA is crucial to any curriculum. But this needs a rigorous scientific study. The study would require investment in terms of resources and time.
I argue that an African HEI must put Lesotho and a Mosotho student at its centre. To attain this, the Faculties of Education and Social Sciences, Centre for Teaching and Learning, Moshoeshoe I Institute of Leadership, and academic departments must carry out collaborative research that would enable them to implement a ‘Mosothocentric’ curriculum.
Dr Tholang Maqutu
Reforms: time to change hearts and minds
A very important milestone is gradually being reached in Lesotho politics. On April 6, 2022, I attended a National Reforms Authority (NRA)’s High-level Forum on the State of the Implementation of the Lesotho National Reforms at ’Manthabiseng Convention Centre.
For the first time, I heard at that meeting politicians acknowledging that Lesotho’s political problems have a lot to do with politicians themselves, and not with written clauses of the Constitution.
This is a point that this country’s intellectuals and academics have made for years. Lesotho politicians have refused to listen both because of their dislike for the country’s academics and because of absence of any communication between the two groups as a result of that dislike.
If politicians could use their newly-acquired wisdom as a basis from which to proceed in attempts to solve Lesotho’s political problems, there is potential for great strides to be made, finally.
Political instability bedevils Lesotho because the hearts and minds of politicians continue to be inclined to break the law, or to look for ‘loopholes’, in pursuit of narrow interests; and continue to change clauses of the Constitution when such clauses do not allow the pursuit and achievement of narrow interests.
We need a change of heart and mind-set among our politicians in order to make headway in building a politically stable society. Politicians’ narrow interests should not be a basis for what needs to happen in Lesotho. The need for constitutional changes and the search for loopholes will persist but they should not be inspired by the pursuit of narrow interests, as has hitherto happened.
Instead, to us the public, it should become necessary to reform the constitution on two conditions only. First, when it is found that the constitution does not adequately address concerns with the socio-economic welfare of Basotho. Second, when it becomes necessary to ensure that Basotho exercise real power on who rules them and on how they are ruled. These conditions are cardinal.
And they should inform all thought and action in Lesotho’s politics.
As has happened many times already, even these costly ongoing reforms of clauses of the Constitution will be all for naught if concern for politicians’ own welfare continues to be a primary motive behind their pursuit for parliamentary seats, and what they do once in parliament.
It may well be that the current and next generation of politicians will be short of men and women with hearts and mind-set fit for service to Basotho’s welfare. But serious attempts need to be made to ensure the generation after the next has a critical mass of such politicians.
This cannot only be wished for. It has to be worked for. One thought is to introduce a curriculum that teaches people the capacity to think of others, and care for others. These are some of the attributes mostly missing among our politicians. Their incapacity to think of others leads to their lack of a sense of public duty that we see and experience every day.
We have neglected the task of socialising and educating empathetic hearts and mind-sets claiming that Africans and Basotho naturally and culturally subscribe to, and live in accordance with, ubuntu (humanity). It is quite obvious that this is not true. People who make this claim loudest are the middle classes who, while claiming to subscribe to ubuntu, live in houses surrounded by six feet high perimeter walls.
There may be other thoughts than socialisation on this. What we have to hope for is that from here onwards, in our search for solutions to Lesotho political problems, we will proceed from the recognition that, primarily, these problems emanate not from inappropriate written texts of the Constitution but from hearts and minds of men and women.
We have lost our moral indignation
I remember when the allegations that Tšeliso Nthane had shot and killed one of his employees first came to the surface. It was in 2019, back when the air was not so poisonous and Basotho still had much of their hope. Well not much because this is generally a hopeless, desolate wasteland but some small pretence of hope still remained. The nation was angry, and rightfully so. The consensus was that men like Nthane, no matter how deep their pockets, should not be allowed to act with impunity. A man was dead and we were baying for justice.
A lot has happened since then. The Covid-19 pandemic, mass retrenchments and job losses, the ever dwindling power of the loti. This and that but all has been more negative than positive in this place so when the time came for Nthane to be handed judgment we had mostly stopped caring as we had to deal with the business of living .
Anyway the man was found not guilty. I will confess I did not read the judgement for fear it will sink me lower into the abyss that is life in Lesotho. However, news of that sort cannot escape one even if they try, more especially if they are on social media. No sooner had judgment been handed down that social media debates began raging.
Suddenly everyone was an expert in punitive versus remedial justices and the pros and cons therein. Many argued that once more the rich had been proven to be above the law. A statement clouded in naivety really because had they been paying attention they would have realised that there is nothing to prove as the rich have always been above the law.
Those who fancy themselves the harbingers of remedial justice argued that Nthane had made certain payments to the family and thus paid his debt. I have no personal knowledge of these payments but I was of course curious to know how much the price of a life is amongst these parts.
They further argued that since Nthane owned many companies that employed many Basotho it would not be in the national interests to send him to prison as jobs would be lost. I am not sure how Basotho think companies work and if they have ever heard that they are a separate legal entity from their owners but no matter. This is certainly an elucidation on the finer points of company law.
I have in the past been guilty of judging my countrymen, perhaps a little too harshly as it is sometimes hard to make sense of their motivations but to hear young people speak so vehemently for letting a man walk free after another has died simply because he is in a position to provide them with a livelihood reminded me once more of the stark hopelessness when it comes to finding a job in this country.
Basotho youths are not uneducated, they are not immoral or unfeeling and they certainly are not pro-murder. At least I hope so. What they are however is hungry and desperate and desperation can reduce even the most pious man to his knees. What good is moral outrage if one is outraged on an empty stomach?
What good will it do for them to be out in the street being activists for social and moral issues when they barely can afford the nine maloti to hop into a taxi and arrive at such a demonstration? To argue that anyone who can offer them jobs should be treated differently as far as the law is concerned is a statement borne out of the worst kind of desperation and instead of making me angry, it made me sad.
Now, I have not enough knowledge of the case against Nthane to say whether I feel the judgment was fair and just. All I know is I certainly want it not to be in favour of him simply because he has jobs and livelihoods to give. It is however easy for me to judge from my privileged position where I have a meal guaranteed every night. It is easy to be morally indignant when one does not have to worry about the indignities of joblessness.
I spoke last week of how easy it is for us to condemn young people who lay their bodies on the human resource table. We laugh at older people who walk for kilometres to attend political rallies and sing for “baetapele” (leaders) and fail to take into account that in a moment of desperation a man who offers you promises of a job you badly need is someone you would follow to a rally.
To see young women in the arms of 70-year-olds who are not even good company. To see young men vehemently justify that murder should be forgiven if the alleged murderer can offer them a livelihood will quickly disabuse one of the notion that there is any progress happening in Lesotho.
So here we are in a country where people are willing to sell their bodies and souls for a chance at a decent life.
Here we are about to enter another election season and the only people who stand to truly benefit are the owners of guest houses. Whether Nthane got a fair verdict or not is immaterial to me, what remains shocking is how we have lost our moral indignation as a country. It appears Tom Thabane, that erstwhile leader was right when he said “sera sa motho ke tlala”. To quote the younger generations of Ma2000: “Because wow”.
Thakane Rethabile Shale
No peace plan, no economic recovery
The world’s struggle to reboot economies viciously disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic remains real. However, the impact could be more severe to countries that already had dwindling economies and lack a way out, chief amongst them Lesotho. The focus on recovery gets disrupted from time to time by new variants seemingly more infectious than the previous ones; we had the Delta variant and now Omicron.
Several countries seem to be putting their own nationals ahead of everyone else. The squabble between the European Union and the United Kingdom over vaccines was but an example of leaders who put the interests of their own people first. The leaders surely knew that the world would not win the fight over Covid unless the rest of the world is vaccinated as stated by the World Health Organisation.
They however made plans to keep their people safe first, protect their boundaries and then set stringent entry conditions into their countries to further protect their own people. Though this may seem selfish, who in their right mind would not do the same?
As countries draw and implement plans to get their economies back on track, Lesotho has very little to show if anything at all. Businesses shut doors and the few people who had jobs lost their only incomes. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Lesotho was already struggling to engage in much needed capital projects because it simply did not have the money.
Sadly, there is no watertight plan let alone a draft to increase dwindling revenue following the reviewed Southern Africa Custom Union’s approach. There is basically no plan to support entrepreneurs to scale up thereby increasing the tax base. Instead, the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) is expected to milk dry the remaining few dying cows.
With this hopeless state of affairs in Lesotho, one would be misled to think that Lesotho is not capable of making solid plans and sticking to them. The reality is, Lesotho, a country of around 2 million people only is indeed capable of doing more for her few people. She has abundant resources; minerals and human capital.
Sadly, the skills and resources are always misdirected to produce negative energy among Basotho. The only fully funded strategy that Lesotho is committed to at the moment and can be articulated clearly by all parties involved without having to consult is Mothetjoa Metsing’s arrest. Metsing is accused of treason based on a hard-to-understand incident where he was a coalition partner and a Deputy Prime Minister, yet he is said to have been involved in an attempt to unseat the then Prime Minister Thabane.
Thabane of course did leave the country but Metsing never dreamt of taking over the premier’s office. The police, Public Prosecutor and the executive are all on the same page about progress and what the next move against Metsing should be.
There are officers ready to do whatever it takes to bring him down. There is no shortage of resources when it comes to arresting him. Intelligence is on top of its game when it comes to him. The propaganda machinery is fully empowered. When will the government get its priorities right?
The army commander Lt Gen Motšomotšo and senior army officials Col Sechele and Col Hashatsi were shot dead in broad daylight, within the army barracks and there is absolutely nothing and no one who has been held accountable for their killing. This against the background that former army commander Lt Gen Tlali Kamoli and others remain in prison for years pending the case surrounding among others the killing of yet another army commander Maaparankoe Mahao.
Where is the logic here? No investigations, no arrests, absolutely nothing on the killing of the three high profile army officials. Yet the government is persecuting Metsing for allegedly plotting to oust a government which never happened.
Around 80 people died in cold blood in police custody under the All Basotho Convention-led operation – “Tokho”. The then Prime Minister Tom Thabane allowed the police to torture people and the Lesotho Congress for Democracy tried to force the premier to withdraw his instructions to the police. That however drew a blank.
The police chief has not yet been called to account for these deaths. The police are doing what Basotho were complaining about during the reign of the previous regime that the army was acting with impunity. Suddenly, it is ok for the police to brutally torture and kill Basotho.
Suddenly, it is ok for army bosses to be killed with impunity. That’s the only reasonable conclusion that one arrives at based on the hesitation of the government to do anything about the killers on the government’s payroll.
The government of Lesotho needs to focus on revamping this country’s economy, creating jobs, improving health services, building infrastructure, promoting peace and unity and managing the escalating crime rate. Lesotho fails to acknowledge that the country’s peace is a group effort and Basotho must all be in it to work.
Investors are unlikely to risk their money in a country that is not at peace with itself. Until the government get its priorities right, Lesotho will continue to struggle to have peace and a stable economy. This will translate to high unemployment worse compared to where it is currently.
Metsing had a peace plan that was unfortunately not supported by some parties. Those who opposed it could only assume that it would let him go free. They never weighed options nor tabled alternative peace-making efforts. To them the country would rather suffer, rather be divided than accept the fact that the government was never toppled. There are far more pressing issues in Lesotho. Instead of paying loads of money to a foreign prosecutor, and taking much valuable time from our courts of law, we should be focusing our priorities on something positive. We need to heal and move on as a nation, not as individuals.
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