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Students’ plight prod teachers into action

by Sunday Express
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’Mantoetse Maama

MASHAI Primary School teachers have decided to take matters into their own hands after watching most of their students fail to proceed to secondary school due to lack of funds.

The school is located 54 kilometres from Thaba-Tseka town, and according to one of the teachers, Tsukutlana Makaba, most of the students are orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) who have no one to pay for their secondary education.

“We have about 400 students and most of them are OVC. They never go further with their studies because of funding issues, and since primary education is free in Lesotho, this is where their schooling ends,” Mr Makaba told the Sunday Express on Wednesday.

“This situation has bothered us for so long because as their teachers, we know they would want to go to secondary school, but cannot due to lack of funds.

“What is even more disturbing is that we are consistently producing good results. For instance, among the 55 students who wrote Primary School Leaving Examinations in 2014, 31 passed with First Class. Only one student failed and this was due to illness

According to Mr Makaba, the teachers could not continue watching such bright students suffer and decided to start income-generating projects and raise school-fees for them.

“In 2013, we thought of starting projects to raise funds for these innocent children. We really wanted them to go to secondary school, but the problem was with the start-up capital.”

Mr Makaba further said after the teachers realised they could not provide the capital themselves, they decided to approach the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) last year for help.

PEPFAR supports community-initiated projects and seeks to strengthen healthcare in communities affected by HIV/AIDS.

“We applied for capital from PEPFAR and fortunately, we were among the 11 applicants who were chosen for funding, hence the $17 930 (approximately M209 650) that we have received today.

“We are hoping to start poultry and piggery projects, and in addition to supporting the children, we would also want to use the proceeds to provide local communities with training and resources for the construction and maintenance of keyhole-gardens.

“Teachers, students and parents will be working on the projects and we already have a targeted market,” said Mr Makaba.

According to Mr Makaba, the poultry project would ensure local communities have fresh eggs at their doorsteps.

“Some of the eggs we get from local shops are not fresh, and we suspect they are being ordered from   Maseru, which is very far away from our area.

“We are planning to sell the eggs at a lower price of say, about M35 a tray, as opposed to the M39 that we are buying them for at the moment.”

According to US Ambassador to Lesotho, Matthew Harrington, each year PEPFAR sets aside $150 000 to support communities across Lesotho through its Small Grants Programme. Ambassador Harrington made this remark during Wednesday’s ceremony held in Maseru to distribute the grants to the lucky applicants.

“This programme helps local communities and organisations strengthen the care and support they provide to HIV/AIDS patients and families affected by the disease,” Ambassador Harrington said, adding in 2014, competition for funding was fierce.

“We received more than 75 applications for funding and trimmed the list to 11. You are here today because we believe in your projects. We believe they will have a real impact on the communities you serve.

“Each of you today has pledged to manage the funds carefully, using good accounting practices, submitting reports as required and documenting every expense. We, at the US embassy, look forward to working closely with you during the course of your project to help you fulfill that critical commitment.”

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