WHEN 21-year-old Abiel Shetlane was selected for a Higherlife Foundation scholarship seven years ago, it never crossed his mind that he would be a history maker.
Neither did he even know what Higherlife Foundation was.
Fast forward to the present day, Mr Shetlane and his two peers, 21-year-old Lerato Takana and Teboho Motselekatse (20) are now set to travel to the United States to read for degrees at separate universities.
Mr Shetlane will be studying for a degree in Finance at the Lake Forest College in Illinois. Mr Takana has enrolled with Harvard University Massachusetts to study for Applied Mathematics while Ms Motselekatse will be studying Pre-Law and Financial Accounting at Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
The trio, who respectively joined the Higherlife Foundation in 2011, 2015 and 2012, all completed the prerequisite International Baccalaureate (IB) with Waterford Kamhlaba United World College in eSwatini.
Higherlife Foundation was founded in in 1996 by Econet pioneers, Strive and Tsitsi Masiyiwa and has so far assisted 1195 Lesotho students. It is sponsored by Econet Telecom Lesotho.
At a farewell ceremony held by Econet Telecom Lesotho and the Higherlife Foundation in Maseru on Friday, Mr Shetlane and Mr Takana could not hide their joy.
An only child whose father died in 1997, the year he was born, Mr Shetlane has defied all odds to ensure his narrative reads like a success story. His mother also died in 2010 when he was in Form A.
“I am an orphaned,” he said at the farewell.
“I remember when Higherlife Foundation came to my school in Cenez and they told me that from that day I was a history maker. I neither knew who Higherlife Foundation was nor what a history maker was.”
He however, said he was aware of the responsibility that lies on his shoulders to improve the lives of many people beyond that of his immediate family.
“One should aspire to build something that is bigger than they are. We are not going to do well for us alone. Africa needs pioneers and we have accepted the responsibility of being tomorrow’s leaders. We are grateful to Econet for laying the groundwork for Higherlife Foundation,” said Mr Shetlane.
Mr Takana says he cannot wait to commence his studies at Harvard University.
After graduating in four years, Mr Takana will be counted as part of the university’s alumni among the likes of former US presidents John F. Kennedy, George W. Bush and Barack Obama and the world’s richest man, Bill Gates.
“I am so happy. This is a great opportunity that many people do not get. My mother is happy. She did not understand how big Harvard University is but she must have learnt from the congratulatory messages we got from friends and family,” Mr Takana said.
Mr Takana who hails from Ha Thamae, a subtle township in Maseru, joined to Higherlife Foundation in 2015 when he was a form E student at Sefika High School. He sat for his LGCSE examinations in the same year and came out in the top four of the best performing learners in the country. In 2006, with the assistance of Higherlife Foundation, he enrolled for IB at Waterford Kamhlaba where he completed in 2017.
Ms Motselekatse who has already left for the US told this paper in a phone interview that she was happy and could not wait to start her life in the US. She added that that her life is now already a huge improvement from what it used to be.
“I grew up in a vulnerable family where our parents could not provide for the five of us. Being the oldest, I had to learn to fend for myself at a young age and the attitude and gratitude were instilled in me at that age.
“I went to St Cecila Primary school in Habuoasono and finished with a first class before proceeding to Makola High School where I remained top of my class till Form C which I attained a merit pass.
“I enrolled with Higherlife Foundation when I was in Form B because I could not afford to pay the R600 annual school fees. In 2013 I was nominated to write for Waterford Kamhlaba and did well. I have been in eSwatini here for four years and graduated last year,” Ms Motselekatse said.
Speaking at the farewell ceremony, acting Econet Telecom chief executive officer, Dennis Plaatjies said that the Higherlife Foundation was working under the Capernaum Fund to award scholarships to orphaned and vulnerable children in Lesotho.
Mr Plaatjies said that scholarship was accessible for all students with single parents, those who do not have both parents, children with both parents but do not have income due to poor health condition or children with single mothers who cannot afford send their children to school.
Minister of Education and Training Ntoi Rapapa said he was grateful for the scholarship as the government only affords to give scholarships to students who study locally and regionally.
Professor Rapapa also said that there was need to shift from the standard regulation from funders that students must return after their studies to work in their home countries. He said the beneficiaries should be left to realise their potential from wherever they are.
“Making a difference in your country does not necessarily mean staying in your country. Instil in people to work where they can realise their maximum potential but remind them where they come from. Even government requires people to return home after their studies without realising their maximum potential from working abroad and it has to stop,” Prof Ntoi said.