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.
Last week the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) announced the Lesotho General Certificate of Secondary Education’s (LGCSE) results. The results represent the climax of the twelve-year school curriculum exposer. They are also a reflection of the quality of teaching that these students experienced over the period.
In the meantime, the MoET’s 2018 Education Statistics Bulletin shows 1 461 primary schools with 10 235 teachers. There were 25 private schools. The enrolment in these schools was 340 421. Of these, there were 1 278 (or 12.5 %) unqualified teachers. Also, the average primary school pupil-to-teacher ratio was 33.4. The pupil-to-teacher ratio varied from district to district, with Mohale’s Hoek registering 30.1 and Mokhotlong 40 pupils per teacher.
On the other hand, the total number of secondary schools in Lesotho is 347, including 12 private schools. The total enrolment in these schools was 138 894 students with 5 353 teachers. There were 5 172 qualified teachers. The pupil-to-teacher ratio in 2018 was 26.6. According to the MoET, over the period 2004 – 2018, the pupil-teacher ratio fluctuated between 23.5 and 26.6.
The report does not disaggregate the teachers by qualifications. The MoET does not disaggregate teachers by qualifications. This omission is crucial because teacher qualifications are one of the attributes of teacher quality.
These statistics provide a hawk-eye view of data captured for one year. Even so, it is representative of learners’ progressions from Grade 1 – Form 5. The schooling system is highly inefficient, with 59.1% of pupils unaccounted for. On average, students take 13 – 14 years to complete 12-years of schooling. Lesotho’s public school education portrait is very bleak, with high repeater and dropout rates.
The missing teacher data paints a disheartening picture of school education in Lesotho. This picture tells more than the data that the MoET presents. Yet, the information is available in Teaching Service Department (TSD) databases. They must use the data for recruitment. The MoET made an unfounded assertion about teacher qualifications and pass rates.
Education and politics are inextricably intertwined in ways you cannot possibly imagine. So politics are integral to education. Attempting to divorce the two is narrow-mindedly naïve. As an illustration, schooling in Lesotho is a joint responsibility between the Government, the churches and the community. The Government is the employer while the school board oversees its functioning, and principals and their deputies run schools. Government initiates policy and resources while the other stakeholders implement them.
When Government plans to introduce a new policy, it requires information about resources. As Morojele contends, uninformed political expediency adversely impacts the Lesotho school education. Lesotho implemented free primary education without a proper situation analysis to determine the new policy’s resources requirements. The decision may be politically correct, but the lack of planning is yielding undesired educational consequences. The system was ill-prepared to absorb the sudden influx of pupils.
Lesotho implemented free primary education followed by the 2008 MoET’s policy. Here, the 2008 MoET policy curriculum envisaged participatory teaching and learning methods. This article shows the shortcomings of teacher education in preparing professional teachers using an example of a primary education programme. I continue to propose a way to mitigate these impediments of teacher quality.
Constructivism theory underpins the 2008 MoET policy. Constructivists claim that students learn by actively constructing their meanings. Contrary to the policy, there are no scholarly studies that confirm constructivism with Basotho children. The MoET Policy envisaged a particular type of teacher. They envisaged a reflective practitioner who facilitates learning in the classroom within the constructivism paradigm.
In the meantime, the MoET implemented the Revised 2019 Teachers’ Career Structure because events overtook it. The MoET listed the objectives of the system. The two objectives that struck my attention outright are:
1. to link a teacher’s career progression to his/her performance, qualifications and experience; and
2. to enhance professionalisation by recognising the need for the development of competencies required for teaching and leadership positions;
According to the Teachers’ Career Structure, teacher qualifications and experience are critical for employment and promotion purposes. This information is crucial in the planning and recruitment of teachers. But the information is not provided in the 2018 Education Statistics Bulletin.
Even though the Ministry sought to move away from a qualification driven career structure, it continues to confine teacher quality to performance, qualification and experience measure by the number of years.
Qualifications are integral to any profession. However, the essential one is the minimum entry qualification because it is a threshold that launches a graduate into the profession.
The horizontal and vertical progressions in the Revised Structure stipulates minimum qualifications that teachers must hold. These criteria are absurd because they exclude teachers who may show competencies and skills from promotions based on a lack of paper qualifications. This criterion is counterintuitive and counterproductive. It defeats the purpose of the structure that seeks to remove emphasis from paper qualifications. The MoET undervalues qualitative measures of quality.
Also, the MoET must define performance in the policy. The Ministry, together with stakeholders, must develop a transparent assessment matrix. Such clarity must include classroom practices and output, in line with the 2008 MoET Policy.
Experience is the best teacher in life. But, teachers’ experience must not be merely an accumulation of years in teaching. It must establish what the teacher did in these years. It must describe the quality of the teaching experience and the quality of contributions. Teachers must add value to the profession, the school and the community.
The second bullet addresses continuous professional development (CPD). Teachers must demonstrate their participation in formal CPD activities. Teacher’s participation must bear performance-based credits points for them. These include workshops that teachers must attend to implement new policies. Put differently, the MoET must demand teachers keep portfolios of achievements. These portfolios must include certificates. But, they must also provide evidence of achievements and teachers’ reflections about these achievements.
The MoET claims that the current oversupply of teachers indicates the success of the teaching profession competitiveness. I beg to differ. Unemployment cannot be a measure of quality. The 2018 Education Statistics Bulletin shows 1 278 (or 12.5 %) and 181 unqualified primary and secondary school teachers, respectively, in 2018. Contrary to the claim of competitiveness, the MoET blames unqualified teachers for poor examinations result.
To understand Lesotho’s school education, I will also explore the teacher education curriculum quality.
Researchers, Lauweirier and Akkari show that teacher education in Sub-Saharan Africa offers superficial and inadequate pre-service and in-service training programmes. Moreover, teachers work under challenging conditions, with poor pay and low morale. Lesotho teacher education studies reiterate these findings, as I shall discuss later. Pre-service training is initial teacher training, and in-service develops teachers in schools.
The succession of paragraphs contextualises teacher education in Lesotho. Before 1975, there were seven denominational teacher training colleges in Lesotho. In 1975, the Government combined the colleges to form the Lesotho National Teachers Training College (NTTC), the predecessor to the Lesotho College of Education (LCE).
Some scholars may contend that teacher supply is one of the main constraints on both the achievement and sustainability of the education for all agenda and sustainable development goals. But Lesotho’s context contradicts this assertion. The teacher supply-demand chain reveals that Lesotho overproduces qualified teachers.
Currently, Lesotho has two prominent teacher training institutions, the LCE and the National University of Lesotho (NUL). Botho University also offers teacher education. The LCE offers a Certificate in Early Childhood Education (CECE), a Diploma in Education (Primary) (DEP), Diploma in Education (Secondary) (DES), Diploma in Education Primary (DTEP). DEP provides initial training for students holding a COSC.
At first, the LCE was the only provider of primary teacher education. However, the situation changed. The NUL subsequently introduced a part-time Bachelor of Education) (B Ed) (Primary). Also, NUL offers several other initial teacher education qualifications. These are Diploma in Agriculture Education (Dip Ed Ag), BEd, Post-graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) and Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). This article focuses on initial teacher education.
Lefoka and Sebatane presented a Country Report for the Multi-Site Teacher Education Research Project (MUSTER). Focusing on DEP at NTTC, they characterised students who entered the DEP programme.
The DEP students were chiefly female from rural areas. According to MUSTER, the students enter teacher education with unimpressive academic results. The low achievement at COSC militates that the college training upgrades the core subject content and social life skills. Amongst the subjects with poor grades at LGCSE is English. MUSTER expresses concern about the students’ low results in the medium of instruction which is English. The medium of instruction at the LCE is English. Yet, the LCE was silent on how they address this challenge in their curriculum. Student teachers had taught before joining the college.
The DEP curriculum did not incorporate students’ prior learning and experiences. Students’ positive attitudes and idealism from teaching experiences could form a foundation for developing teachers. Teaching was traditionally didactic and authoritarian and lacked variety. Students did not learn how and why they must adopt new teaching styles that encourage active learning. Without these experiences, they will replicate the traditional chalk-and-talk teaching styles that their teachers used.
In addition, students recognise that teaching is demanding with financial rewards that are not commensurate with their efforts. Still, they see teaching as a calling. There were internal contradictions and mismatches in curriculum design, pedagogy, and students’ perceived needs. The report shows disjunctions between teaching practices in college classrooms and the approaches espoused in programmes. Tutors did not practise student-centred approaches in classrooms. They failed to create learning situations that aid learning in the Lesotho primary school contexts. The disjuncture in the curriculum impedes the programmes from achieving goals. They urged stakeholders to assist the college in equipping the DEP teacher educators with skills to help the college realise its aspiration through this programme.
The MUSTER study makes profound findings of DEP and Lesotho teacher education. Even though historical information on students’ profiles exists on the college database and Higher Education Management Information System (HEMIS), lecturers did not know their students. Even worse, the college did not take advantage of existing information when designing its curriculum. This ignorance led to a mismatch between teaching and envisaged learning approaches.
MUSTER contends that the curriculum at the teacher training must incorporate all the characteristics of the student-teachers. Elsewhere, I wrote that Basotho must take full responsibility for the knowledge they produce, decontextualise into curriculum and present in the classroom. For this to happen, a Mosotho student must be at the centre. The findings by MUSTER are clear evidence for the need. And the college does not put their students at the centre of their curriculum.
In summary, this article reflects on the MoET’s Revised Teachers’ Career Structure and MUSTER multi-national study. I showed that while most primary school teachers were qualified, a significant sum remains unqualified. This is crucial, bearing in mind that the primary school lays the foundation for all children’s education.
Politicians continue to make policy pronouncements that are not backed by research. In this case, the existing resources, human and physical, cannot support their new policies. Politicians fail to learn from history.
The Revised Career Structure seeks to diminish the over-reliance on qualification for progression practices but fails. It contradicts itself. I argue that minimum qualifications are the entry point for any profession. Even so, qualifications must not be a tool for gatekeeping and prevention of career progression. The policy must give CPD and attrition the prominence they deserve in teacher career progression. I suggest that the 2019 Revised Career Structure must employ teacher portfolio assessments, including evaluation matrices. This portfolio must include descriptions of teacher experiences in terms of their quality experience and CPD.
The MUSTER studies found disconnections in the curriculum, the tutoring staff, the student-teachers and the Lesotho primary schools teaching and learning contexts. DEP is not fit for purpose because its graduates are not ready to teach in schools. Yet, these graduates meet the minimum requirements for Lesotho’s Revised Career Structure. The Council for Higher Education accredited the DEP programme curriculum. Nevertheless, the Government must receive value for the money they invest in teachers’ salaries.
I propose something that will raise eyelids in some quarters. I suggest that Lesotho fully professionalises teaching. This time, graduates must participate in professionally supervised training placement under an independent teaching professional body. Professions like law, medicine, and accountancy follow this protocol. At the end of the period, associate teachers take professional examinations that make them eligible for entry into the teaching profession. Successful candidates may then register as teachers with the TSD.
Alternatively, all first-time teacher training graduates entering the profession must take a professional examination administered under an independent teaching professional body. The outcome of this examination shall determine their eligibility to enter the profession.
In addition, teachers must regularly attend CPD short workshops and be evaluated for the continued practice in schools. So, The CPD information must be part of promotion evaluations. Some countries practise this system.
The process will, as a result, circumvents the challenges highlighted in the articles. This will ensure that teachers have cutting edge expertise that evolves with the demands of changing circumstances.
In conclusion, yes, my proposal is ambitious and incurs financial costs. But the benefits outweigh the costs. The Government can entrust the country’s future into the hands of professional, competent teachers.
Dr Tholang Maqutu
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