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Government to close bogus orphanages

‘Mantoetse Maama

MASERU — The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare plans to close illegal orphanages that are mushrooming throughout the country.

The ministry’s senior child welfare officer, ’Matebello Marite, told the Sunday Express on Friday that they were waiting for the enactment of the Children’s Protection and Welfare Bill 2010 before clamping down on illegal orphanages.

The Bill passed its second reading in parliament on Wednesday.

Marite said there were only 30 orphanages that were registered with the ministry but there are dozens others that are operating illegally.

She however declined to name the illegal orphanages saying it would be improper to mention them before the children’s Bill becomes law.

She said orphanages should be owned or run by communities and not individuals.

“Before an orphanage can be opened the community should come to the Ministry of Social Welfare to be assessed to check whether they meet the required standards or not,” Marite said.

“When a community opens an orphanage it should have a site and a lease. The lease should be registered in the orphanage’s name.”

An orphanage should have a properly constituted committee to oversee its operations, she said.

The community applying to own an orphanage should show its means of fund-raising and demonstrate that it can be able to pay the care-givers and feed the children.

But Marite said most of the orphanages in the country are being run by individuals and have no properly constituted committees.

Apparently some of the orphanages are now using children for fundraising programmes, something Marite said was illegal.

Marite said an orphanage is supposed to provide food, clothing and shelter to children.

Yet most have started sending kids into the streets to beg for food and money.

There are over 200 000 orphaned children in Lesotho.

Most of the orphans have lost their parents to Aids-related illnesses.

Some of the children were abandoned by their parents soon after birth while others were chased out of their homes by relatives after their parents died.

“In Maseru there are two orphanages that are not considered legitimate by the ministry as they don’t meet the requirements,” Marite said.

“We cannot close down those orphanages because the Children’s Protection and Welfare Bill has not yet been passed into law.”

Marite also said an orphanage should have a certificate from the magistrate’s court to allow it to take in a child.

“If a child is to leave the orphanage a report should be sent to the magistrate’s court.”

She said the ministry is working closely with the police’s Child and Gender Protection Unit to find suitable homes for children found abandoned in the streets.

The Sunday Express this week observed children from the Ministry of Insured Salvation, a Maseru-based orphanage, singing in the streets asking for gifts from the public.

They are a common sight at Sefika Shopping Centre. 

Some of the children sell donated clothes and food in neighbouring villages.

But Mavis Mochochoko, the director of Insured Salvation, denied that they were using the children to beg.

She insisted that the only reason why children from the orphanage go into the streets is to “preach the word of God”.

 “The reason why children gather at Sefika complex and sing is to preach the word of God,” Mochochoko said.

“The children only leave the campus with me when we are going to preach the word of God as we were assigned.”

She denied that orphans staying at her orphanage were selling donated food and clothes in the neighbouring villages.

“I have never sent children to sell donated food and clothes in neighbouring villages,” she said.

“I sell the clothes that I buy in South Africa together with the care-givers in order to provide food for the children.”

She said the orphanage takes in newborn babies and children up to the age of 12.

“We currently have 150 orphaned children living in the campus and we also provide food for the elderly,” she said.

Mochochoko however skirted questions about registration.

She said the orphanage is registered with the law office but did not want to say whether it was also registered with the social welfare department.

Lack of corporate governance and proper structures have also caused clashes between some orphanages and donors.

Ts’eliso Ratšolo, the founder of ’Malibuseng Children’s Home in Maseru East, recently clashed with Sentebale, a charity organisation started by Britain’s Prince Harry and Lesotho’s Prince Seeiso, over corporate governance issues.

Ratšolo is now accusing Sentebale of trying to take over his orphanage, an allegation the charity organisation has vehemently denied. 

He said problems started when Sentebale offered to pay the orphanage’s care-givers and buy food for the children.

“They were also supposed to pay the water bill, electricity and school fees for the children,” Ratšolo said.

He said after some time officials from Sentebale started making arbitrary decisions for the orphanage without consulting him.

“They were supposed to fund the centre with the money as we had agreed but they had taken over,” he said.

A bitter row erupted.

Ratšolo says the orphanage is registered with the law office but avoided questions whether it was properly registered with the social welfare department.

A manager with a local charity organisation said because of the loose controls there are adults in Lesotho who are now living off orphans.

“There is a founder syndrome. Most of the founders want to cling on to the orphanages so that they can continue to benefit from the donations and other grants that the institutions receive,” he said.

“This normally happens even when there is a committee appointed to run the institution.”

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