Dream becomes rock solid business
‘AFTER every storm the sun will smile; for every problem there is a solution, and the soul’s indefeasible duty is to be of good cheer.”
These seminal words by the late American minister and author, William R. Alger, encapsulate ‘Makhotso Mokhantšo’s journey from the despair of unemployment to becoming an entrepreneur and employer.
Ms Mokhantšo is the founder of Rainbow Daycare Centre in Tsoapo-le-Bolila which opened its doors in 2014 and has since grown in leaps and bounds.
However, she tells the Sunday Express in an interview this past week getting to where she is now was no walk in the park as she had to overcome many obstacles.
Ms Mokhantšo says the teaching bug probably bit her as a toddler in the dusty streets of Tsoapo-le-Bolila of the early 1980s. She vividly remembers playing the part of a teacher in most of the role-playing games she played with her childhood friends.
“I always played the teacher role and I was sure my dream career was in the education sector. However, by the time I started my secondary education, I was certain I didn’t want anything to do with teaching,” says the 35-year old.
With no other prospects after completing her Cambridge Overseas School Certificate at Abia High School, Ms Mokhantšo was left with no option but to apply for the primary teaching course at the National Teachers Training College, now Lesotho College of Education (LCE).
“While at LCE, the passion for teaching of my childhood was rekindled and I enjoyed the course.”
She decided to further her studies with a Degree in Child Psychology at the Gaborone College of Law in Botswana to give herself an edge. Upon her return, however, the job opportunities she expected did not materialise.
“When I returned from Botswana armed with a Degree in Child Psychology and a Diploma in Education from LCE as well as experience, I was shocked to discover I couldn’t get a job.”
Frustrated and broke, Ms Mokhantšo realised there were fewer opportunities for employment compared to the days she was a teacher at Leribe English Medium School and Paballong Private School.
Needing to quickly find a way to make a living, she remembered that quality clothes were sold at affordable prices in Botswana. Ms Mokhantšo decided to use the little savings she had to import clothes from Botswana for sale.
The business, she stresses, was merely a means to an end; that of opening a day care centre.
“For me, it didn’t matter how educated I was or demeaning selling clothes might be conceived. I never allowed myself to take my eyes off the ball. I knew what I wanted, and told myself I would do everything in my power to get there.”
The day care centre, she says, would not be like the rest found in the country, but incorporate the educational models she learnt in Botswana.
“During my studies in Botswana, I would visit my friends who taught at a pre-school during my lunch breaks. I was intrigued by their teaching method as they separated the kindergarteners by their age groups,” says Ms Mokhantšo.
“There was a Baby Class (2-2½ year olds), Kinder Class (3-3½ year olds), Pre-reception Class (4-year olds) and Reception Class (5+-year olds.)”
Upon questioning the method, Ms Mokhantšo was informed children of different ages should not undergo similar educational programmes.
“Batswana would also tell me Lesotho was misdiagnosing children’s educational capacity from pre-school,” she says.
“I think it was God’s doing that I got to interact with them, because I then developed an interest to open my own pre-school copying their methods. When I failed to secure employment as a teacher, I began to nurture this dream.
“Although my family didn’t understand my idea, I am thankful they wholeheartedly supported me and never asked me to use my savings for our day-to-day upkeep.”
Rainbow Daycare Centre started off with 55 learners with Ms Mokhantšo determined to offer a different product to what was available on the market.
“There were thousands pre-schools, and I needed to come up with one offering something unique.”
She ruled out the idea of building classrooms from corrugated iron sheets, opting instead to build walls with colourful and “child-friendly” drawings.
Ms Mokhantšo also took into consideration the economic status of the bulk of her clients, who mostly work in the factories, in deciding on the tuition fee structure.
“I structured the tuition fees in such a way that most of my clients could afford them, while at the same time ensuring their children get the best education possible. Truly speaking, my ultimate goal is to ensure Rainbow Daycare Centre becomes the best pre-school in this country,” she says.
“I am happy that children whose parents couldn’t afford to send them to English Medium Schools can have the same confidence and fluency in English.”
Ms Mokhantšo is, however, quick to mention every business has its fair share of challenges, adding a lot of parents did not pay tuition fees on time forcing her to send their children away.
“It pains my heart. I actually miss them the very minute I send them away. I wish parents would make their children’s education a priority and pay school fees on time.”
Professionalism, she says, is the key to the success of any business, whether large or small.
“Rainbow Daycare Centre has a board of directors I answer to and respect. I never try to exercise my ownership powers. I respect their decisions and also respect parents because they are my employers.”
With Lesotho celebrating African Women’s Month in August, Ms Mokhantšo says it is time women made things happen for themselves.
“Never underestimate the power of self-confidence nor look down on certain jobs. No matter how educated you may be, go for what you believe will help you reach your goals no matter how low it may seem,” she says.
“We all have our future in our own hands. Start small. Starting is the first and right step towards achieving what we want.”
In most cases, Ms Mokhantšo notes, women are trapped mentally, thinking certain jobs and businesses were demeaning; not knowing they are their worst enemies.
“If I had put dealing with children’s faeces, urine and mucus ahead of my dream, I wouldn’t be where I am today. As women, we can achieve whatever we set our minds to if we persevere. I am where I am today because every day before I sleep and leave my bed, I pray. I have lost count at the number of times I pray,” she says.
“I went through a very difficult storm, but at the end, my rainbow came through this pre-school, hence I called it Rainbow Daycare Centre.”